Casey Longyear and Marshe Wyche both spent a great deal of their childhood living in the country, with thrift stores being their main source for clothing options. This experience deeply rooted in them a love for creating their own style, which they carried with them throughout their young lives. In 2007, when they 22 years old, the two young women created a thrift store called Rumors, located at 723 W Broad, which has become a staple of Richmond, Virginia shopping.
Casey Longyear and Marshe Wyche both spent a great deal of their childhood living in the country, with thrift stores being their main source for clothing options. This experience deeply rooted in them a love for creating their own style, which they carried with them throughout their young lives. In 2007, when they 22 years old, the two young women created a thrift store called Rumors, located at 723 W Broad, which has become a staple of Richmond, Virginia shopping. As Rumors has grown, their ambitions have as well. They hope to help communities by bringing in business, change, and people who strive to improve their city. With their compassion for others and a strong bond with each other, Longyear and Wyche hope to expand and change the world, one city at a time.
Their pasts also play a large part in their future. Longyear grew up in the small county of Rappahannock, Virginia, and lived in a bed and breakfast. “It was a small town, I was one of seven people in my graduating class. I grew up on thrift stores–there was a shack that was a thrift store that let me have a tab, and would call my mom and be like ‘she needs to pay her tab.’ That’s kind of how I got into fashion,” Longyear said. She wasn’t bothered by the fact that her new favorite thrifted punk shirt was three sizes too large; she would simply cut it up and sew it down until it fit her properly.
After years of creating her unique look in a small town with a country mentality, she decided to take the next step and head to college. Longyear chose Virginia Commonwealth University for her education, and fashion merchandising as her major. Having attended punk shows in the northern Virginia area for many years, she felt as though Richmond was the proper fit for her. During her years at VCU, she had to create an actual business plan for purchasing, owning, and running a store. “This taught me so much about business. I learned so much in my classes at VCU,” Longyear said.
After a first successful year enrolled in VCU and the fashion-merchandising program, Longyear rented her first apartment with some friends. That was where she met Marshe Wyche. “I had a party the first night at my first apartment and she came to it,” Longyear said. “The next day she came back to help clean up, and that’s when I met her. We became good friends right away.” Wyche would eventually become Longyear’s roommate, best friend, and business partner.
While Longyear was forming her unique style and getting into punk music in Rappahannock County, Wyche was doing something similar in Emporia, and later in Hampton. She grew up on a farm with her mother, father, and older sister, and she spent her fair share of time in thrift stores. “I grew up being really thrifty because my family comes from a simple background. I spent so much time working in thrift stores and I wanted that thrifty look,” Wyche said.
Wyche began going to punk shows in D.C. when she was in sixth grade. “I was heavily influenced by the D.C. punk scene and started booking shows when I was in seventh grade,” she said. Wyche has lived on her own and been self-supporting since she was 15, so when she decided to move to Richmond to continue setting up shows in various venues, she was well acquainted with taking care of herself and having multiple jobs, and she had a very ambitious spirit. “I knew when I moved to this city that I was coming here for a reason. It was just about finding the right way to get it done,” Wyche said. She didn’t know it, but she was about to find her reason.
One night, not long after she had moved to Richmond, Wyche was wandering the city late at night. “I was walking around in my punk shirt and shorts, and this girl invited me up to her party. She liked my shirt and that sparked a conversation, and I thought she was really nice. The next morning I came to their apartment to help them clean up,” Wyche said of Longyear. From then on, the two were incredibly close, and dreams about their futures sprouted and grew. “We did Food Not Bombs together. We got really involved in the Richmond scene,” Wyche said. “Marshe said that the second she met me, she knew we were going to be doing this,” Longyear added.
Although it took until they were college-aged for them to officially meet, they had attended many of the same shows and ran in parallel circles. “It’s funny that we were both in these similar communities, and we grew up in the country but we both ended up in Northern Virginia. Shows that I booked brought her and her friends to that town. We didn’t even meet each other until years later,” Wyche said.
Wyche and Longyear moved in together the following year, and their ideas on how to change the community began to flow. At 21, they decided that they wanted to open a boutique in Richmond. They were going to allow themselves three years to compile a business plan and funds, but “we decided we needed to open it up much faster, and gave ourselves basically 8 months to open it up,” Longyear said.
During this time, they began to think of a name that would suite their new shop. After much deliberation and trial and error, Wyche came up with the name “House of Friction.” Seeing as that sounded far too much like the name of a sex shop, they continued to think. Ultimately, the community picked the name for them. “Someone came up to me and said, ‘I heard a rumor that you’re opening a store,’ and that just stuck,” Longyear said.
In order to make their dream store a reality, Longyear and Wyche had to work long hours at businesses all around Richmond. “I sold everything I could, worked three jobs, doing anything for money. I was working 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ellwood Thompson’s, then I was working 2.30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at a job answering telephones, then I was working 8.30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Mojo’s twice a week,” Wyche said. While Wyche was working these jobs, Longyear was putting in a large number of hours at Dominion Skate in Carytown, and also working at a racetrack. After clocking hundreds of hours each week, the girls were ready to give it a go.
On June 1, 2007, exactly one year after Longyear graduated from VCU, Rumors officially opened for business as a small boutique store, featuring small label clothing from all over the world. “We put everything we had into the store. We didn’t get any loans, and we don’t have rich parents, so we literally opened the store with zero dollars left in the bank. We spent every penny we had,” Longyear said. Longyear and Wyche shared a twin-size bed in a tiny crawlspace above the store while striving to make some sort of profit.
In an effort to not have all work and no play, the two took a trip to Belgium right after opening Rumors. They each had a free ticket and $40 in their bank accounts. “We just left town, left our friend in charge of the store, and we went to Belgium with $40. We came back with $10, and we were there for a week. We got to see Municipal Waste for free, I beer bonged on stage and played drums–I don’t know how to play drums. It was great! That was month number one of owning the store, and that set the standard,” Longyear said.
Having put their entire life savings into the store, the girls no long had funds to go out and have fun. To fix this problem, they held shows inside of the store. “We would just push the clothes to the side and have the show right there in the store. People were literally jumping off of the balcony. One show, two kids went through the window,” Longyear said.
This was only one chaotic aspect of their first year in business. Their time as a boutique shop was marked by financial struggles. They weren’t getting enough business to support themselves, and were still working multiple other jobs. “We did the all-new thing for a year and a half. We [originally] wanted to provide Richmond with stuff that you could only get in big cities,” Longyear said. However, needing to make ends meet, they decided to change what they were selling in order to have a broader target audience.
In a span of a few days, they changed from a boutique store to a thrift store. Once they made the change, their profits increased dramatically. “We started a rack of our own clothes, and they flew off the rack. Anything random that someone would need, I try to have,” Longyear said. Once this change was made, they began getting their merchandise by a whole new process. Both Longyear and Wyche traveled around Virginia to thrift shops to find items to sell in their store. “I drive from thrift store to thrift store to make sure I get every single gem,” Longyear said. “Yesterday I was in Winchester, Harrisonburg, Stanton–I’ve been on the road all week,” Longyear said.
Once they felt as though they had depleted the state of Virginia of its fresh and stylish clothing, they began to branch out and visit different cities across the United States. Wyche said that she works “100 to 110 hours a week,” most of which is spent flying around the states finding clothing in thrift stores. “Last year we went to Colorado for 4 days, and got 6,000 pounds of clothes. We get to bring things from different areas,” Longyear explained.
Photo by PJ Sykes
After five successful years at their location on Harrison Street, the Rumors girls received some bad news. The owner of the building wanted the space to open up a yogurt shop, and gave them one month to empty out the store and find a new location. Understandably frightened, Longyear took a break from Richmond to try and clear her mind. “I left town, went to New York and got wasted for three days with some friends up there, came back ready to deal with it.”
Upon her arrival back in Richmond, Longyear had a stroke of good luck. “Day one, this man comes up to me and says, ‘I hear you need a new building–follow me and I’ll show it to you.’ And this [their current location] is what he showed me. We thought we were going to have to close down. This guy saved our life.” Their new location is on Broad Street, and what began as a tragedy became the best move of their lives. “I wasn’t ready to grow when we were [on Harrison St], but this forced us to, and it was the best thing ever,” Longyear said.
The community has been following Rumors since their humble opening in 2007, and Rumors received support during their move. Anna Gale has been a loyal customer for four years. “The first time I went to Rumors, I was a junior in high school and I used to come visit my sister, so I’ve been going there for quite some time,” Gale said. Now that she is a resident of Richmond, she appreciates the store even more. “It’s easy to get to on foot, and they always have very fashionable, inexpensive things to wear,” said Gale. “Rumors is a great little community place to go.”
Rumors is finally settled in their new location at 723 W. Broad and have the security of a 15-year lease. With all of this established, they have begun expanding, and opened up a new Rumors store in North Carolina this past summer. It is located in the town of Chapel Hill, which they recently stumbled upon. “Last year I was going to North Carolina to go thrifting and I passed through Chapel Hill. They don’t have a good thrift store there, but they have great bars and a great music scene and the people are friendly. When we started thinking about where we should open our second store, we thought of that spot,” Longyear said.
Though they have since established their store in North Carolina, they had a rocky start, an experience that mirrored their leasing problems in Richmond. “We went down to sign a lease. We had been talking to the woman for months, and she tells me that the building won’t be available until November. And we were ready to move then. We didn’t know what to do,” Longyear said. Unwilling to wait such a long period of time before getting the store open, Longyear and Wyche were very concerned. Their good vibes and motivated spirits brought to them an amazing opportunity. “This man working at the bar comes up to us and said ‘I couldn’t help but overhear–my landlord has another empty space.’ And that’s the building I’m in now,” said Longyear.
Once the ball was rolling on the North Carolina store, the two moved down there into a house, finally able to have a home outside of their store. They have been taking turns returning to Richmond to ensure that the business is still running smoothly, but they primarily live in North Carolina these days. Employees from the Richmond store have visited the new store in order to get a feel for how things are running and to figure out what is expected from them here in Richmond. “I’m taking two of my employees down for a week to show them how it’s done. They can learn from each other,” Wyche said.
In the near future, they hope to expand further and open up more Rumors locations. “I’d like to open up a new store every nine months,” Wyche said. Where these new stores will be located is not yet decided, but they do have some ideas. “I just want to be somewhere where I can influence people, and these southern towns are a little more untouched,” she added.
It is Wyche’s dream to open up stores so that the profits can be funneled into a community center, and so that each community that they enter will benefit from their presence. “I want a manager that’s involved with the community as much as Casey and I are, and they are working hard to get those numbers to fill the community center and to employ their people. If we can open up a store every 9 months on a campus and fill it with young people in college who do want to change things, imagine what that can do. We have big plans and it’s all going to happen. It’s just a matter of time,” Wyche said.
Along with the opening of the North Carolina store and the ambition to open many more, the Rumors girls are also trying to get their own television show. They have just finished up the sizzler reel, and hope to send it out to stations soon. “All summer we had this guy living on our couch just filming us all of the time. It made for an interesting summer,” Longyear said. “I want people to watch our show and want to be our best friends. I want to inspire people.”
When these exceptionally motivated young ladies aren’t thrifting, running their stores, or planning future expansion, they have some very wild adventures. Visiting Belgium was just the beginning; Wyche has an extensive list of travels. “Holding a lion in Mexico, having an anaconda tighten on my body in La Playa de Carmen, swimming with crocodiles in Jamaica, playing with penguins in New Zealand, feeding kangaroos in St Kilda Australia, diving for blue crabs in Fiji, thrifting in Antwert in Belgium, going to world cup festival, working in fashion in Amsterdam, styling Amy Winehouse in NY…” The list goes on and on.
With Rumors, Wyche and Longyear have created a store that truly encompasses what Richmond is about, and they are just as proud and happy as the community surrounding them. “I’ve created a dream job, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I thought that by opening a business I would be tied down, but I’ve traveled way more then I would ever have imagined. I live and breathe Rumors,” Longyear said. “I found someone who cares about their family and their community more than themselves, and that’s rare,” Wyche said. “We are a Leo and a Cancer, ready to take over.” These girls have big plans for their futures, and someday Richmonders will be lucky enough to say ‘I knew them when…’