Thrifting is a way of life for some shoppers and store owners

Even without barely penny to her name, Arlene Leaf made it work, and she now helps Tucsonans in the same position. When Tucson Thrift Shop burned down in 1990, she was left with few options.

The store she’d opened with her father in 1979 was no more; her father had died before the fire and the memories lay in ashes.
With a small amount of money she had saved, she began an eccentric new shop from scratch.

“It had its own life,” Leaf said. “I think if you do things with good intention they work.”

When money became tight in the 2008 economic downturn,, the store’s cult following expanded to include all kinds of customers.
“I think it has a good feel to it and people like coming in here,” Leaf said.

MORE FROM THE DAILY WILDCAT

However, even though Wall Street has begun opening to brighter days, numbers show that people are still on the “chic and cool” practice of thrift shopping.

“I think that the economy has actually changed the consumer in a permanent way,” said Sherry Lotz, a UA retailing and consumer sciences associate professor. “People really want to be unique in their fashion, so one way to do that is obviously to go to a thrift shop or vintage shop and find something that’s very unique,” Lotz said.

Despite consumers’ shopping trends and an increased buzz this year due to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Thrift Shop,” a number one Billboard single, sales haven’t seen a spike recently. However, the resale industry is still projected to generate $13 billion in revenue this year, according to First Research.

Thrift shops like Tucson Thrift Shop, are loaded with items one knows they shouldn’t have but can’t resist.

“Once you start [thrift shopping], it’s hard to stop. It becomes addicting, almost,” said Holly Marsh, who writes the blog Life as a Thrifter.With hats weird enough to make Lady Gaga to blush, chains Flavor Flav wouldn’t rock and pastel suits even Craig Sager might feel uneasy in, the chance to play dress up is a rush for shoppers on a budget.

Anthony Vito, a journalism senior and former men’s fashion intern at T Magazine, said he was able to find a leopard print bomber jacket made by a “really high-end eastern European designer” with its original price tag of $875, but for a fraction of that cost.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” Vito said, “It can attract a lot of different types of shoppers — people who aren’t necessarily into labels or what they’re wearing so much as to what it looks like or how it makes them feel.”

Lotz said she believes the popularity of thrift stores isn’t unique to the UA, but rather a trend of communities supporting local businesses like Leaf’s shop on a national scale.

“It holds this energy … when you walked in then it was [as if] the store just gives you a hug,” Leaf said. “It’s like I look around it and I think, ‘Where in the hell did this thing come from?’ And I love the people I work with. I love the stuff I work with. I love the customers. I’m so grateful and happy to be part of the community.”


Share this article