At the 'Helm:' There's a new vintage shop on the block in Ohio City

Fans of Ampersand—the popular Cleveland Flea stop for vintage furniture and home décor—will be thrilled to know that the brand has taken it to the next level with a brick-and-mortar presence and an all-new name.

Enter Helm Collective, the new Ohio City-based shop where owner Nicola Wilhelm will be able to better showcase her vintage finds.

“Having a new name has been representative of a new chapter for me,” says Wilhelm, who has been selling at the Cleveland Flea for six seasons. “Ampersand served me really well, but I’ve taken it as far as it can go. Making a change to a [brick-and-mortar] store has been a pivotal moment in my business.”

Wilhelm curates the shop with the intention of offering “everything you need to make a house a home”—including hand-poured candles, plants, vintage rugs and furniture, wall hangings, and handmade pottery. She sources the items from estate sales, auctions, flea markets, and thrift shops, going as far as Tennessee to score must-have vintage finds.

“My shop style is a reflection of my personal tastes, which are always evolving because that makes it more fun,” shares Wilhelm. “In general, there are heavy bohemian influences, balanced with the order and restraint of Scandinavian design.”

Wilhelm has always had a passion for all things vintage, but it started morphing into a profession back in 2012 when she began upcycling furniture from her basement and selling it on Craigslist and at the Flea. Explains Wilhelm, “I was working a 9-to-5 corporate job at the time, and I was looking for a creative outlet.”

As Wilhelm moved forward, she noticed that her favorite part of the process was finding vintage pieces and styling the furniture. Eventually, Wilhelm decided to strictly focus on that side of the business. She kept up the side hustle as Ampersand through last October, when she quit her job in communications at a local bank to focus on making her dream of a physical shop a reality.

“I’d been toying with the idea of a store for a while, and I definitely thought Ohio City was the right place,” says Wilhelm. “It’s such a vibrant community, and I can’t imagine a better spot for my store.”

Wilhelm says Helm Collective fits right in with the array of antiques and vintage shops already on Lorain Avenue—such as Sweet Lorain, West of Venus, and All Things For You. In fact, Wilhelm says that the neighborhood is planning a series of Saturday events called “Vintage Lorain” to showcase the emerging district and what it has to offer.

“Selling alongside multiple other vintage sellers and antiques stores gives shoppers a really vast landscape to wander through,” says Wilhelm. “They get to see what vintage looks like through so many different eyes, which is the beauty of design and style.”

Amid the existing shops, Wilhelm feels that Helm Collective brings a new and distinct offering to the area—thanks to its “curated and narrow perspective on vintage”—and, so far, shoppers seem to agree.

“My goal is to create a space that’s welcoming, cozy, and peaceful,” says Wilhelm. “I’ve had a few people joke that they wish they could live in the store, and that’s the highest compliment.”

Helm Collective is located at 3904 Lorain Ave, Cleveland, OH 44113. Check them out on Instagram here.


Jen Jones Donatelli
Jen Jones Donatelli

About the Author: Jen Jones Donatelli

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast.

When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes through her small business Creative Groove, as well as Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.