Monica Bischoff, owner of the vintage boutique Pope on Prince, sporting a perfected bedhead look that all would be envious of, welcomed us into her boutique, while her granddaughter twirled in and out of rooms, leaving a choreographed path of stuffed animals. Bischoff’s hairdo is an ode to a later statement, “I wake up, roll out of bed and I’m at work,” a perfect summation for the appeal of the recent trend of live-work spaces. But behind the seemingly disheveled look is a passion for a business that arrived in the least romantic of ways.
“Pope didn’t start as my love for vintage clothing, no, this was a desperate measure to create a job for myself.” Back in July 2014, Monica Bischoff, with the help of her husband, Douglas, made a decision to start Pope on Prince after they experienced a slight downturn in the engineering firm they work for. Bischoff saw an opportunity with Pope and ran with it: “I collected everything one month before I opened and set up the store in ten days.”
What started as a desperate measure turned into a passion that feeds Bischoff every day. “I wake up every morning renewed with excitement. A year later [since Pope has opened] I come to find out I love doing this. I can’t believe I didn’t do it 20 years earlier,” said Bischoff.
Nestled quaintly above the Daily Co-Op on Prince Avenue, Pope is home to items ranging from faux furs to penny boards, all of which have a story to tell and magic to spread. The magic spreads when opening the front door where you can see relevant clothing for the ever-changing weather, and into the first room that contains leather goods and various knick-knacks. The magic continues upon entering the next rooms that holds men’s wear, women’s wear and decor. Bischoff does most of her buying from private collections.
Aside from living and working out of Pope, the space also holds various events throughout the year, the most recent being a youth social for 13-18 year olds for the Athens Pride Festival this past September. “I wanted it to feel like home for these kids, most are struggling with identity issues at a important time in their lives,” said Bischoff. She cooked for the kids and let them act as if Pope was their home too, allowing them to enter in and out of the kitchen freely. “I had a kid that actually came out to his parents in my own kitchen. What an honor,” said Bischoff.
At the foot of the enchanted stairs there is a rack where on any given day it is filled with jackets free to take by passer-byers in need of an extra layer but can’t afford one. A sign is placed above the rack reading, “Leave the hanger.” When Bischoff first started this infamous rack, her husband suggested bringing the rack in for the night, but Bischoff insisted on leaving it. “I told him, ‘You know, a lot of people don’t want you to know their struggles, and in a state of anonymity they will probably come at night to grab a coat,’” recalled Bischoff. By the next morning, all the empty hangers had a jacket returned to them and ever since it has been coined as Pope’s recycled coat rack. “Amazingly when I woke up the rack was full,” said Bischoff. “And isn’t that such is life? The rack is always full.”