Those who knew Gordon Scott Corey say he could read a denim jacket or pair of jeans as if they were history books.
“Vintage clothes, Levis — they all had a story,” said David Corey, whose brother died Oct. 9 at his Santa Fe home following a five-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Scott could look at a pair of Levis and tell you what its background was, what year it was made, why Levi changed the stitching, everything.”
Gordon Scott Corey — known as Scott to friends and family members — operated both the Santa Fe Vintage Outpost on East Palace Avenue and the Santa Fe Vintage Showroom on the south side for years.
He was 67.
Corey, who was born in San Diego, moved to Santa Fe in the early 1990s after a succession of careers: cowboy, blues musician, bartender, pipefitter and Alaskan crab fisherman. He tended bar at the old Club Luna in Santa Fe.
His background as a cowboy in Oregon played a role in his own love for vintage Western wear, said Theo Griscom, who worked with Corey at the Santa Fe Vintage Showroom and who plans to keep operating it.
“He was a cowboy at heart,” she said. “That’s how he lived, and that went along with the vintage work — he was a trader, a traveler, a historian.”
David Corey said his brother was born out of his time. “He absolutely would have been a cowboy 50, 100 years ago,” he said. “And a guitarist too — he would have been a singing cowboy.”
Scott Corey was born to Gordon and Frances Corey in December 1951. He grew up in a predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhood in southeast San Diego, which nurtured his love of diverse food, blues music, storytelling and fashion, his brother said. His father often took him to swap meets and second-hand stores for some bargain shopping — a pleasure he developed into a business decades later.
“I thought it was the coolest thing to wear my dad’s old flight jackets, uniforms and ties to school,” he said in a 2015 interview with GQ magazine. “So I think I got the bug from him.”
When he started playing in bands in the 1980s, he began wearing 1940s and 1950s attire. As he started collecting more vintage clothing, he began selling it out of his Chrysler Newport at band gigs, he told GQ.
“This was before the internet and eBay, so I was just hawking stuff out of my trunk,” he said.
He graduated to selling vintage clothing out of his home before opening the showroom when the stuff he collected began to overrun him. He would take road trips throughout the year to search for new clothing to buy and sell. Sometimes he would go up and knock on the door of some “funky farm house,” said Jules Barth, who co-ran the downtown vintage shop, which also will stay open, with Corey.
“Some people probably wanted to shoot him, wondering, ‘Who’s this guy coming onto my property?’ But Scott had a way of talking to people that made them listen and respond,” she said.
Over the years, Corey expanded his collection of clothing, adding 1940s military uniforms, women’s dresses from decades back and biker jackets. In the showroom, Griscom pointed out an 1880s rodeo shirt made out of the felt found at the bottom of old cigar boxes as one example of Corey’s ability to “find that one item that’s so hard to find — like a rare piece of gold.”
Though Corey never liked to smile for photographs — he looks perpetually pensive in them — his brother and friends recall a man who was full of good humor, warmth and music.
“He was a Jeff Bridges type,” Griscom said. “Stoic, serious, steady.”
His work was his life, she said. His sense of humor held up to the end, she said. He told her he would click the lights to the showroom on and off to let her know he’s still around. So far, he hasn’t done that, but she said she knows he’s near.
“And I’m gonna need him,” she said.
Corey never married, his brother said. The family plans a celebration of his life in May in Santa Fe.