Arts Post
Posted at 12:33 PM ET, 06/15/2012

Buffalo Exchange brings thrifty fashion to D.C.

On Saturday, June 16th, Washington joins the ranks of Williamsburg and Boerum Hill. Our fashion savants, honored for their perpetual worship of the bowler hat, will be rewarded handsomely with a style sanctorian cemented on 14th Street. The arrival of the thrift mecca, the fabled Buffalo Exchange, means the end of an era, one where vintage addicts took seasonal Megabus trips to Brooklyn in search of Union Hardward roller skates.
The national consignment chain was founded by Kerstin Block and her husband, Spencer, in 1974. (Courtesy of Buffalo Exchange )

The cash on-demand thrift and resale chain, founded in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona, has over 40 stores that morph to fit the quirks of their communities. The company swept west through California, then headed east before taking New York and expanding southward. Selling both men’s and women’s clothes, Buffalo Exchange focuses on trends, not brands, and doesn’t price Anna Sui much higher than Gunne Sax (we found pieces by both for less than $25.) For trade-ins, they offer 50 percent of the resale price in store credit or 30 percent in cash.

New York scenesters and Elle editors speak of Buffalo Exchange like contraband, a place where cheap thrills and ecstatic highs come with the added bonus of being able disrobe and trade your designer jeans for something new-to-you in the store.

Come in Banana Republic. Leave as “Zou Bisou Bisou” arm candy.

Or better yet, keep your clothes on. Just Pay $45 for high grade Hermes silk and return when the high wears off.

Resale, vintage, barely worn, you name it. The stuff all mixes together in one psychedelic glob, in a space seemingly inspired by a Hunter S. Thompson novel. Signs marked “Shirts” are made from vintage dictionaries, a charming nod to customers who purposefully repurpose underloved stuff.

“The demographics are perfect for us,” said Anna Weldon, 28, the manager of the store who moved from Minneapolis to run the chain’s newest edition. “We’ve wanted to be in D.C. so long. It’s such a stylish, interesting city.”

Then what took you so long to reward our stylish efforts?

“We wanted to find the right building,” she said. The exposed brick in 1314 14th Street, NW just felt right.

But the myth and magic of this resale enclave, Weldon says, is its “wild west” ethos. A commitment to personal style and personal responsibility helps them keep the prices low and inventory flowing.

“It’s special. People get hooked,” Weldon claims. “They come in once and they keep coming back.”

Right now, the most expensive hit in the store is a pair of tiny Prada riding boots. 6.5. Main window. $100 boon. Something tells us that tomorrow they’ll be gone before noon.

By  |  12:33 PM ET, 06/15/2012

 
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