leading the resale fashion industry
Kerstin Block is president and co-owner of Buffalo Exchange, one of a small number of national companies headquartered in Tucson. She started Buffalo Exchange in 1974 in Tucson with her husband, Spencer Block. Kerstin and her daughter Rebecca still own and run Buffalo Exchange out of Tucson. Kerstin joined the Art Advisory Board of the University of Arizona's College of Fine Arts in 2006. She was a trustee at the Arizona Sonora-Desert Museum for seven years, the last two as chair of the board. Kerstin has been an active member of the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops (NARTS) since the mid-1980s. She has presented four workshops at NARTS annual conferences, including topics such as company philanthropy, how to set up and renovate stores and how to grow your own business.
Kerstin unveiled the new Spencer Block Memorial Scholarship for Achievement in Retail Entrepreneurship by the Terry Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona on Apr 7, 2011 in Tucson. The $5,000 scholarship was presented during the Center’s 15th Annual Global Retailing Conference. The Spencer Block Memorial Scholarship for Achievement in Retail Entrepreneurship recognizes an outstanding retailing student who has demonstrated a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In 2010, Kerstin was one of the presenters at the prestigious Global Retailing Conference.
Kerstin was named one of five ATHENA award finalists on Aug 26, 2010, in Tucson at an event hosted by the Arizona Small Business Association. The ATHENA Award is the most prestigious recognition a successful woman in business can receive. Ernst & Young LLP named Kerstin as a 2009 Regional Entrepreneur of the Year, Retail/Consumer Products category, on Jun 11, 2009 in Irvine, CA. Kerstin is the only female recipient and the only Tucson business owner out of seven winners in the Orange County/Desert Cities region. Awards are given to entrepreneurs who demonstrate extraordinary success in the areas of innovation, financial performance and personal commitment to their businesses and communities. Winners were selected by an independent judging panel of regional business and community leaders, and Ernst & Young presents the awards in more than 135 cities in 50 countries.
At the IdeaFunding luncheon in Tucson on Nov 5, 2009, Kerstin Block was awarded the Thomas R. Brown Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award for exceptional standards and contributions to community good through exemplary entrepreneurial leadership. Kerstin was honored with the Cele Peterson Award by the Southern Arizona Aids Foundation at the fashion show benefit Möda Provocateûr in Tucson on Mar 8, 2009. Kerstin was selected for her contributions to the local fashion community since 1974.
Inside Tucson Business named Kerstin Block as one of ten "Women of Influence" on Jun 7, 2007: "These are 10 women [who] have stepped outside what might be considered 'expected' career paths to do something more. Not only for themselves, but for the community as well... Block restructured the used clothing industry by giving customers the option to sell or trade clothing items and accessories on consignment." Kerstin and Spencer accepted the Southern Arizona Smart Inspiring Enterprise (SASIE) 2007 Award that Buffalo Exchange won for Sales and Marketing, 26+ employees category, at a ceremony hosted by The Arizona Small Business Association on Mar 6, 2007. SASIE Awards recognize and honor outstanding entrepreneurs in the Southern Arizona region whose innovative, enterprising approach to business deserves special recognition. Buffalo Exchange was one of 12 companies chosen from 102 nominees. In 2006, the American Advertising Federation Tucson honored Kerstin for her contributions to marketing at the Phyllis Ehlinger Women of Excellence event in Tucson. Kerstin was recognized as one of three of Tucson's most accomplished local business women for their marketing success stories. She was honored in 2005 as Woman Business Owner of the Year by the Tucson Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. In 2000, Kerstin was named an Entrepreneurial Fellow by the Karl Eller business center at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Kerstin Block has successfully transformed the retail apparel marketplace by leading the resale fashion industry. To our knowledge, Buffalo Exchange was the very first store that bought, sold, traded, and took clothing items and accessories on consignment. When Buffalo Exchange opened in 1974 in Tucson, resale shopping carried a stigma. Kerstin Block is a pioneer in reversing this trend. Buffalo Exchange contributes to raising the demand for used clothing by selecting only quality, fashionable items that can be resold, and by offering used clothes at low prices in a clean, fun store with a boutique atmosphere. Customers receive cash or trade for clothes from their closet, in addition to simply shopping. People can buy brand new clothing using trade; no cash needed. The resale chain offers current labels and desirable vintage at bargain prices. Shoppers browse the merchandise of many stores and closets in one trip to Buffalo Exchange. Some find clothing otherwise not available in their city, because a well-traveled shopper has sold their clothing to Buffalo Exchange.
Kerstin grew up in Sweden and came to the University of Arizona on a scholarship in 1960. Kerstin loved thrift stores and swap meets. When she failed typing and shorthand classes at Pima Community College and lost her job in furniture display, Kerstin realized it was time for a change. She decided to open a unique kind of clothing store where people could buy, sell, and trade used clothing. The shop opened for business with clothing hung on racks made from old bicycle rims. The store was in a 450 square foot space that had been an old union office on Warren near the University of Arizona. Then, the object was simple survival. The couple supported their two daughters with their new business. Expansion was the last thing either of them thought about, until one day, about a year after they opened, they looked around and realized that they had no room to put anything. When the shoemaker next door left, the wall was immediately taken down and the space was doubled. That was the beginning of a growth pattern that still continues.