Around the Corner: Modern styles through the art of thrifting

Maverick Arnold | The Daily Wildcat

The Tucson Thrift Shop is located on North 4th Avenue in Downtown Tucson. 

Tucson Thrift Shop stands as a colorful relic in the heart of Fourth Avenue, with shades of blues, yellows, pinks, purples, oranges and greens covering the exterior of the building. Inside, the store has almost like a walk-in closet kind of vibe, with articles of clothing of any size, type and style from princess tiaras to denim jackets.

According to the Tucson Thrift Shop’s website, the store was established in 1979 and “continues to provide a marketplace for creative shoppers seeking their own personal style.” 

Nadia Hagen, an employee of Tucson Thrift Shop, describes the shop as a “fun, funky costume, vintage type of store.”

“Back in the day, you could really find vintage, you know, if you went to Goodwill or any of those places, but now it is rarer and rarer to find vintage,” Hagen said. “This is what makes this store really special.”


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Tucson Thrift Shop
Racks of costumes and vintage clothes on display in Tucson Thrift Shop in Downtown Tucson on Fourth Avenue. Tucson Thrift Shop was established in 1979.

For Tucson native and owner Arlene Leaf, the original inspiration for the store came through her retired father, whose original intention was to benefit the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, Calif. that saved his life from cancer.

After his passing, Leaf continued in operation of the store and switched locations to 319 N. Fourth Ave. After the move to the bigger location, Leaf would go out and buy staple items, like different kinds of sunglasses, trying to build the kind of store she wanted.

As far as shopper demographic goes, the Tucson Thrift Shop has seen a multitude of people, all from different walks of life over the last two decades.

“The consciousness and awareness level has changed, which I really have got to experience first-hand,” Leaf said. “The people today, they have a very fine appreciation for the old. They understand the tactile nature of the whole thing, it has got its old vibrations … they really have a sense of what it all means and the piece of our history that it represents.”

According to Leaf, Halloween is the busiest time for the business, so they gear up for it all year long.

“We see a lot of University of Arizona students who come in for all sorts of reasons, from date dashes, parties and such,” Hagen said. “For a lot of them, since the Halloween season is looming near, this is when they discover us. They come in flocks and we try to hook them up with the best.”

Tucson Thrift Shop
Costume shoes being sold at Tucson Thrift Shop on Fourth Avenue in Downtown Tucson. Tucson Thrift Shop is advertised as Tucson’s Halloween costume destination.

According to Hagen, the shop provides “through the age” themes from different eras. 

“With each passing year, the interpretation of ‘eras’ have brought different ways of bringing them to life, and so we have to keep evolving in order to look through the eras through different eyes,” Hagen said.

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The UA community is not the only community that is involved, a lot of surrounding businesses also participate in Halloween in their own way.

One of the thrift store’s regular customers is local tattoo artist Jibo Barrow from Sacred Art Tattoo Studio, who has been coming in for five years.

“I have gotten some Halloween costumes there. They are awesome and they have always taken really good care of me,” Barrow said. “I have always had really great experiences there.”

Tucson Thrift Shop
Various Halloween costumes in display in Tucson Thrift Shop on Fourth Avenue in Downtown Tucson. Tucson Thrift Shop is advertised as Tucson’s Halloween costume destination.

Barrow mentioned that he recognizes how the Halloween season helps the store thrive.

“I know for a fact that it is their busiest month,” Barrow said. “They kind of hate [being the] only place in Tucson where you can get really authentic costumes. Not those plastic costumes, they are real and authentic.”

He compared the shopping experience to be like old record albums in the sense that the trend had “died” but then suddenly came back into style.

“That’s how it is with thrifting,” he said. “People like to thrift.” 

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