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The thrift that keeps on giving

Locations: News Published

In a society trending toward resale consumerism, Carbondale stays in-fashion with an extensive array of secondhand shops. From children’s wear to high-end consignment to treasures from grandma’s attic, shoppers have their pick of holiday gifts without setting foot in a massive superstore.

“We are seeing more and more teenagers thrifting these days than ever before,” Ann Samuelson of the Near New Store said. “It’s amazing to see this new generation of shoppers experiencing the benefits of thrift.”

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In Carbondale, most secondhand stores are for-profit — with the exception of Near New, which is owned and operated by Rebekah Lodge Seven Stars #91. At most for-profit shops, sellers have an opportunity to consign their gently-used items. To consign, sellers — who consist of everyday citizens to major retailers — sign a business agreement with the consignee to sell their goods. If the product sells, the consignor will receive a predetermined percentage of the product’s final selling price. Most Carbondale consignment shops contracts support either a 50/50 or 40/60 model.

Dez Davee, owner of Back Door Consignment, strives to provide customers with the highest quality of secondhand goods possible. “Items [we take] have to be floor ready, in recent design, and have to be in really good shape,” Davee said. “I get all the designer stuff, […] but we only sell authentic. I do the authentication [on the product] and it takes a lot of time. We won’t sell any product that is fake because that is unethical.”

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Just taking a quick look around Back Door, the thrifty consumer can spot high-end goods for a fraction of original retail price.

“In our glass case, there is a Céline — a designer from Paris. It’s a brand new bucket bag […that retails for] $4,000, and it’s on sale here for $750. [The consumer] can get that back [in savings],” Davee notes.

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Sawyer’s Closet — Carbondale’s only consignment shop solely focused on children — offers shoppers the opportunity to buy gently-used or even brand-new gifts. Shoppers strolling through the racks can find outerwear, books, toys, hiking packs, and more at a fraction of the original retail cost.

Saving more than money

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Aside from attaining extraordinary discounts, consumers have the opportunity to make environmentally-conscious purchases. In 2019, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation — which focuses on cyclic fashion — reported, “If everyone [in the world] bought one used item instead of new this year, we would save 5.7 pounds of CO2 emissions, 11 billion kilowatts of energy, 25 billion gallons of water, and 449 million pounds of waste.”

Tyler Vaughan, co-owner of Ragged Mountain Sports, said, “We try really hard to send people somewhere with their stuff [that we cannot take]. Sometimes we end up with a couple hundred pairs of skis that we cannot legally sell because the bindings are bad. But, at the end of the year someone will come and buy them all up and make a fence or a chair.”

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Vaughan elaborates that Ragged aims to cut-down on low-quality, fast fashion products by selecting gently-used, sustainable brands. “We’re all getting a little more educated on how to [shop] responsibly. Maybe [we] should be buying something of a quality that lasts and is good for the environment,”  Vaughan said. “Another great reason to buy secondhand is that somebody already paid for [the original] carbon footprint, and now you’re not paying for a jacket to get shipped all over the world again.”

Sue Gray, an employee at Miser’s Mercantile for over five years, said, “We rarely throw items away. We do our best to avoid the landfill. If we can’t sell an item we either donate it [to one of our charities] or bring it to Near New. We use or recycle everything.”

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Gray continued, “I enjoy being a part of upcycling as it fits my personal philosophy to care about future generations, and to preserve and enhance our planet and environment. I choose a more conscious lifestyle by working and buying [secondhand].”

Despite the for-profit model, secondhand shops in Carbondale have ingrained charitable ventures into their business plans.

Davee has two foundations in Burkina Faso, West Africa where 10 percent of all Back Door sales are donated. Her foundations, The Regina Fairman Foundation and Tin Can Foundation, focus on humanitarian efforts that abolish the practice of female genital mutilation and support underserved and impoverished children, respectively.

Ragged gives away half of its profit to the community every year based on its consignment agreement, in addition to supporting the Bike Project and Spring Gulch Nordic Council. “If an item sits in the store for over 100 days we find somewhere to repurpose it,” Vaughan said. “For example, we gave a bunch of junior golf clubs to the kids program at RVR, the tele-team at CRMS is getting some of our gear, [and] Glenwood Elementary gets a lot of our team sports [gear].”

As the only non-profit secondhand shop in Carbondale, Near New sets the standard with charitable causes.

“We are completely non-profit and donation-based,” Samuelson said. “A lot of the profit we make goes to schools, scholarships, [funding for school] trips to Washington D.C., and to the homeless. One volunteer, Joe Markham, collects tents, sleeping bags, coats, and socks to be donated to the homeless. We also give big discounts to teachers and books to classrooms.”

While Sameulson and the volunteers at Near New are more liberal with the items they accept, they kindly remind patrons that dumping is absolutely not allowed.

“[The dumping] is a nightmare for the volunteers. People have left old paint cans outside, other people tend to go through it, taking the best things. Our policy is right on the door: donations during business hours only. Fortunately, it has lessened over the years,” Samuelson said.

With the holiday season in full-swing, secondhand shop owners urge consumers to step beyond the “one-click” shopping culture.

“It’s amazing what you can find secondhand,” Vaughan said. “You should always at least make a step to look for something that can be repurposed.”

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