I absolutely love thrift stores - I always have. Most Mondays you can find me thrift store shopping around town making stops at my favorite spots and loading up on shirts to wash, cut up, and turn into new upcycled accessories for AENDEE.
Ever since I was old enough to drive myself around my hometown of Joliet, IL thrifting was something I did in my spare time. I love the thrill of the hunt, the humor in some of the ridiculous things you stumble upon, and the excitement of finding an amazing piece of clothing or furniture at an unbeatable price.
I am 100% positive that I inherited my love of thrifting from my mom. She has coined the term "Good Will Hunting" for her Sunday thrifting adventures. Almost every Sunday she and her boyfriend hop in the car and head out to the nearest Goodwill store. She's already visited nearly all of the locations in the Chicago suburbs and sometimes drives for hours just to visit a new shop. It's one of the cheapest forms of entertainment and one of our favorite ways to spend a day off - so of course I managed to create a business that allows me to go thrifting "on the clock".
When I started sewing I always used secondhand fabrics (in the form of clothing, linens, or by the yard scraps) instead of new material. I worked at my local Hancock Fabrics and even with an employee discount, fabric added up fast. My favorite source for secondhand material back home was a thrift store called UNIQUE. It was a bigger thrift store with amazing deals on clothing (tag sales, bag sales, and special daily discounts) and I could always find something unique (har, har) among the racks there.
Fast forward nearly a decade - I have now owned & operated my own business for 2 years in my new hometown of Fargo, ND. I've found new thrift stores to love & have found new meaning in using secondhand sources. When I started it was almost completely an economical choice- using secondhand fabric was cheaper than using new fabric. It was the perfect way for me to teach myself how to sew, develop skills at drafting my own patterns, and craft myself a wardrobe for very little money.
It didn't take me long after my first few projects to dig deeper into the significance of upcycling and using secondhand materials. Before long I was finding myself more and more interested in the environmental impacts of the clothing industry and amazed by the waste that is produced through manufacturing new textiles. By the time I established AENDEE in the summer of 2012 I was still using secondhand materials for all of those reasons and more.
One of the benefits of buying secondhand is that most of the time, the money that you spend at a thrift store goes directly towards the efforts of a non-profit organization or charity. Not all thrift stores are created equal- but when you find one that is truly dedicated to a specific mission it feels great to support them through your purchases.
One of my favorite Fargo thrift stores is New Life Center. It's my favorite for a few reasons - they have a great selection , their prices are reasonable, their staff is super friendly, and they do amazing work for our community.
During my last visit I picked up a flyer that explained the Center's 2014 Service Statistics. The Thrift Store (which is only one small portion of the New Life Center's work) provided 2,119 individuals with clothing, furniture and other household essentials at no cost in 2014. They serve individuals and families that are referred to them by social service organizations as well as those referred through their own residential program (which provided 31,733 nights of lodging in 2014 / 87 beds a night throughout the year!).
I love how hands-on this particular thrift store is. Almost every time I shop there I encounter individuals who are shopping on referral. In the winter this means warm coats, hats, gloves, and new shoes from The Thrift Store, as well as the security of knowing they have a place to stay (if needed) on unforgivingly cold nights. Referrals can also mean a new outfit to wear to a job interview, new clothes for kids to wear to school, or a way for a family to furnish their home for free so that they can save money for other essentials. New Life Center also provided 95,543 meals in 2014, that's 259 meals daily.
The services that New Life Center provides to the Fargo community are outstanding. Each time I shop there and I am reminded of the work they do and am proud to support them through my (nearly) weekly purchases. It's a tiny contribution on my part but it is one that gives me more satisfaction than supporting large corporations or contributing to more waste on our planet.
If you'd like to learn more about New Life Center and their services, visit their website or stop by their Thrift Store.