Mobile’s BackFlash Antiques Mall Sells Love and Whimsy

Charlana Thomas Quiovers’ voice is as warm and hospitable as one would expect from a native of Mobile, Alabama. She says “moh-beel” gently and in a way not to correct a Northerner’s inclination to mispronounce the name of Alabama’s third-largest city as “moh-bill.”  Quiovers is not a hard-seller but it is clear how she can sell an idea as easily as a garment or antique. By the end of a conversation, the Northerner pronounces it “moh-beel” too.

BackFlash Antiques began with Charlana’s love for well-made clothing, her mother’s style, and the hunt for rare fashion. “I was laid off from a job, so I hauled vintage clothing around in the trunk of my car,” she says. She sold whatever she could, wherever she could, including barbershops. Ultimately, her side-hustle became a passion and a small business. 

Her first experience as a kiosk seller was successful. She says, “I didn’t know what I was doing, so I called the local newspaper” to inquire about advertising but was put in touch with a reporter instead. The reporter showed up on the one day she was off, and the owner of the mall took credit for Quiovers’ business. “There was a big feature in the lifestyle section of the newspaper” and photos featured the landlord with Charlana’s wares. The relationship was marred and she moved on to one more antique mall before landing at her current location, where she manages the mall and gives credit where it is due. 

“It’s all about love. I try to pour love into people.” 

The sign by the entrance says as much. “If you’re reading this I love you!”   

BackFlash is a haven for friends and family who add fun and whimsy. She may put you to work. Visit often and stay long enough, and you will model some of her shop’s vintage couture. Artist Claude Thomas as DJ Wildlife is the resident spinner. People dance, sing and shop. 

“I let people be. They are welcome to come in and look around in peace. I let them know I am here to help, but I won’t bother them,” she says.

One time “a tall, striking man” walked into BackFlash. She gave him the space to look around and place a number of garments and accessories on the counter. The man was the renowned fashion stylist and boutique owner, Rodney Burns. He was there to find unique items for Lenny Kravitz and his band. Pleased with his finds, Burns invited Charlana to bring what she thought the group would like to his hotel, and he would return to BackFlash with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, Mr. Kravitz, and other members of the band. 

Charlana was thrilled when Lenny came back later with photographer Mathieu Bitton and insisted that she pose with him. The photo was posted on Kravitz’ Facebook page and Instagram account. BackFlash won a few fans, and Charlana received an answer to prayer: The best free advertising ever. Lenny’s embrace was the bonus.   

Other celebrities have found their way into BackFlash. John Malkovich, Trombone Shorty (who admitted he didn’t like vintage stores but liked BackFlash), actress Emily Mortimer, Weird Al Yankovic, and country singer Tyler Childers to name a few. 

Photo Credit: Mathieu Bitton

Awed and impressed that celebrities visit BackFlash, she strives to make all visitors feel special. In her store, “everyone is a star,” she says. 

If you leave BackFlash without making a single purchase, you will leave feeling special. You can find Charlana, and art, antiques, vintage clothing, and ephemera, at 9 S Joachim St, Mobile, AL 36602. 

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