While many teenagers don’t get jobs until they’re 16, there are a few in Evanston that are ahead of the curve. Odessa Winn, a 14-year-old freshman at ETHS is a “tweentern” (tween intern) at Retro*Fit in Evanston who spends time thrifting, sewing and observing sustainable business practices.

Odessa Winn, a 14-year-old ETHS freshman, works at the Retro*Fit store in Evanston. (Photo by Barbara Ruiz)

Odessa, who uses they/them pronouns, is one of two interns for Retro*Fit and according to store owner Barbara Ruiz, working with young teenagers couldn’t be any better for business.

“Odessa is a 14-year-old adult,” she said. “Just this smart, cute and passionate cool kid. They have done more than I ever expected.”

Ruiz likes teens being in the space and learning about the business. At Retro*Fit, everything is upcycled or recycled and based in sustainable fashion. Ruiz seeks out items that have stains and rips and are often less donatable but instead can be turned into a new piece with the help of a vision and her interns.

“I love this age and teenagers,” Ruiz said. “I think sometimes teens get a bad reputation, but they are the coolest. It is the age where everything is happening and it is the most exciting time for them, it’s really fun to watch. I just love it.”

Although Odessa is busy with school, sports and extracurriculars, they are dedicated to spending time at Retro*Fit and advancing their knowledge and craft.

“I really love thrifting,” Odessa said, using the term for shopping at thrift and discount stores and flea markets. “I am not the greatest at sewing, but I have always wanted to upcycle and make my own clothes. Retro*Fit opened so close to my house and really intrigued me. I was already looking for a job, so it was just kind of perfect.”

Odessa’s first major project came to them while doing one of their favorite things – thrifting. They were at Village Discount and came across a sale: men’s dress shirts, three for $1.

Ruiz was already planning to launch a fall line with swatches from men’s dress shirts and cropped versions and when Odessa came across the shirts, they knew it was a deal they couldn’t pass up, so they bought dozens of shirts to bring back to Retro*Fit.

Odessa isn’t too sure what they want to do after high school, but the time they have spent at Retro*Fit has helped lay the foundation for any future plans, they said.

“I don’t know if I want to do fashion, but the small business aspects really appeal to me. I have always wanted to start my own small business and Retro*Fit has offered me so many great opportunities.”

Retro*Fit, at 1620 Greenleaf St., is open noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...