Signing the lease, Tomarra Sankara-Kilombo says, was a leap of faith. The new store for Sankara-Kilombo’s shop, Black Soul Vintage, slated to open in May, will be in Germantown, her neighborhood.

Black Soul Vintage has operated as online-only for three years, selling vintage clothing, home goods, art, ephemera, and loads of books. Many of her finds are rare. For example, a little more than a week ago, she added a number of vintage issues of Sports Illustrated, including a 1983 edition with Dr. J on the cover from the Sixers’ NBA championship-winning season. But Black Soul Vintage is a rare find in and of itself, as many of Philadelphia’s vintage shops are not Black-owned. Sankara-Kilombo is looking forward to seeing people experiencing her store in person.

“[To] make it more intimate so that people can touch and feel and see all the different pieces that I have, and really feel the vibration of what Black Soul is,” she said. “I always say Black is a feeling. And so I want people to be able to feel what I’m doing.”

She launched a GoFundMe as Black Soul Vintage’s building fund earlier this month, seeking support to complete renovations in the soon-to-open location at 90 Church Lane. Sankara-Kilombo, also a collage artist who studied fashion design at Drexel University, is currently painting the space after having work done on the ceiling.

Long before she opened Black Soul Vintage, Sankara-Kilombo was the kid who followed her mom in thrift stores and never lost the habit, growing into the adult who people would ask, “Where’d you get that?”

“Eventually it turned into ‘You can sell this stuff,’” she explained, now 31 years old with hundreds of vintage items in her home. Many have come from donations, sometimes even from strangers. What she finds and what comes her way for her is “spirit work.”

“I swear to you things just pop up,” said Sankara-Kilombo, who recently happened upon a signed copy of Toni Morrison’s Beloved. (She’s definitely keeping that one.) “I’m never necessarily looking for anything in particular. … There’ll just be something there.”

The Inquirer spoke to Sankara-Kilombo about her approach and her vision. This conversation has been edited for length.

What compels and drives you as you curate your vintage?

I’ve always loved history — when I was little I wanted to be an archaeologist. I always have loved digging and finding and reading and writing. So that was the number one thing that I was really hoping that people would get out of Black Soul is the books; that is my main focus. But I started to add the other things because those were things that I really liked.

I originally wanted to work in the fashion industry. So clothing was always going to be something that was a part of what I was doing. So then the home goods kind of rolled into that. Black Soul is really a lifestyle.

You walk into Goodwill, you walk into a thrift store from anywhere, it’s automatically white. The clothes are white, the books that are there are white, everything is white-centric, without even thinking about it. So I was like, what if we had that same space, but Black was at the center?

So that’s why I like to collect a little bit of everything. So it can fill all the different spaces in your life.

You mentioned that things just find you. How did the signed copy of Beloved find you?

Oh my gosh, girl, I wish I knew. I was going through some books. If you can see, I call it my room where I keep everything, it’s literally bursting at the seams. So the store has come right on time. And I was like, you know what, I have to go through every single box.

So I have boxed everything up a few months ago, and in the past few weeks since we’re getting ready for the store, I’ve been literally just pulling out each box and going through what I put in there. So that Beloved in particular, I really can’t recall where it came from. It didn’t have a price on it. So I’m assuming that it probably came from a donation, and not something that I bought myself.

And so that’s why I tell people it is very spiritual. I know sometimes we’re like, “That’s a little, you know, out there,” but I really do feel that spirit puts certain things in my hands.

I opened it up. And I was like, I was like: It’s signed! With a real ink pen! It’s hers! That means she held the book. So I’m like screaming upstairs.

She’s my favorite author. She’s also from Ohio. And so it just really, really meant a lot.

How would you describe your dreams for Black Soul from here? I mean, of course, you’re opening the brick-and-mortar, but what else are you dreaming of on the horizon?

I am so excited for the physical space because I have so many big plans for it. And I really want it to be a community space where people can come and learn. I’m really hoping to be able to host different workshops and events and things like that, all throughout the summer and all throughout the year. And I’ve been in talks with quite a few people about doing different panels and different things like that. I really want to create a cultural hub.

I want it to be somewhere where you can come and take a class with a local professor or you can come and do a collage workshop, where you can come and have a wellness event in Black Soul. So I really wanted to encompass all of those things. And I really want us to be able to travel. I want Black Soul to be visible in different areas. Whether that’s a pop-up or far, far in the future, another store or something like that. That’s really where I see Black Soul headed.