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Seeking Higher Ground: A secondhand rose in a great, green town

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When Barbra Streisand sang about being a secondhand rose in Funny Girl, she sounded a little blue.

But I think it’s something to celebrate, and Carbondale’s clutch of secondhand stores make it easy to do.

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My affection for recycled goods predates my life in Carbondale. When I lived in San Francisco, fab recycled finds regularly rolled down the hill from upscale Ashbury Heights to Haight Street. The same gravitational principle applies here, downvalley from Aspen.

Not long ago, Sopris Sun staffers Will Grandbois and Megan Tackett debated buying locally versus shopping on the internet. I’m with Will. I’m a locavore, and if I can mitigate a product’s carbon footprint by buying it here, rather than having it shipped from Chicago or China, I will.

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That said, thrift store shopping requires some open-mindedness.

In early summer, I tossed a pair of dog-eared sandals. The replacements had to be red and conform to certain foibles: Flip-flops are beneath my dignity. I get altitude sickness from heels over two inches high. And I have a princess-and-the-pea syndrome about anything passing between my toes. Beyond that, I was open to serendipity.

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When I walked into Back Door Consignment, I found that the place had been oh-so-artfully redesigned. The shoes, grouped by color, were precariously perched atop chairs hung on the wall. Yep, red shoes were easy to find. However, you could scuff a lot of shoe leather looking for a specific size.

During the 15 to 20 minutes I spent searching, I was transported back to Moscow, circa 1975. There, in front of a huge, communist-era department store, I saw dozens of gesticulating people crowding around a heap of footwear. An Intourist guide explained that when footwear became available – a rare event – Muscovites rushed in to buy any shoes they could lay their hands on. While the comrades didn’t fuss about style (there was only one!) their sidewalk swap did relieve the lingering capitalist tendency to prefer some specific size.

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I don’t think that would fly in Carbondale. Maybe Back Door reached the same conclusion. Last time I visited, the shoe displays had given way to a bit more practicality.

Back Door has, IMHO, the best selection of recycled furniture in town, along with a good selection of dishes and clothing. But my fave rave these days is the Near New on Main. (A shout-out here to fellow Sopris Sun board member Olivia Pevec, a new volunteer who been a force behind the store’s renaissance.) If you need a pillowcase, a pot lid, a pan for your camp stove or a picture frame – something now missing from Miser’s – Near New is now the place to find it.

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I have bought shoes and clothing at Lulu’s, and I favor buying artsy and recycled clothes at Mountain Fair. The Buy Nothing Roaring Fork group on Facebook has helped me recycle furniture while providing a painting easel and a metal headboard that makes a great bean trellis.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also put in a plug for Ragged Mountain Sports. That’s where I found my cross-country skis and the shockingly-pink bike I peddled in June’s Full Moon Bike Ride.

Now pink is not my color. It’s too girly; too Hello Kitty. I’m short, and to get things to fit, I sometimes buy children’s clothing. In a long-ago team-building meeting, a coworker who was asked to characterize me as an animal likened me to a chipmunk! In my quest to be taken seriously, as a manager and an adult, I wore a lot of black. Pink was poison.

But as I said, thrift shoppers need to be open to surprise. And at my age, I’m no longer cute enough to be chucked under the chin. Even if I do ride a pink bike.

I did find red sandals at Miser’s Mercantile. (Their shoes, like their clothes, are grouped by color, but you don’t have to trot all over to find your size.) I also bought a great second-hand watch at Miser’s. They nicely offered to refund my money if the Fossil turned out to be one, but Miser’s 24-hour time limit expired long before I could find a battery. Turns out that it’s next to impossible to have a watch battery replaced in Carbondale. By the time I located a jeweler (in Glenwood), got an appointment and found time for the 40-minute round trip drive, a week had elapsed!

Still, anytime is the right time for recycling in our green-leaning town. When you’re a secondhand rose wearing secondhand clothes, you’re reducing greenhouse gasses, keeping junk out of landfills, conserving energy and building our local economy. And that looks just great on you.

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