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Not Your Average Thrift Store: The History of Buffalo Exchange Featured Story

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By Jessica Pruitt

In 1974, when Kerstin Block first had the idea for a different sort of secondhand shop, she never expected it to grow into what it is today – she just followed her love of thrift store shopping. “I came upon the idea that there must be other people who are equally addicted to this kind of shopping, but who didn’t want to sort through as much stuff.” Enter a whole new business model – a resale shop where customers could buy hand-picked treasures in one place and also sell their clothes for cash or trade on-the-spot.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Kerstin outside first location

From Thrift Store to Resale Boutique: The First Buffalo Exchange

At the time, Kerstin had recently been fired from a job at a local furniture shop. When she mentioned that she’d like to try opening her own business, her husband Spencer was all for it. To start, they rented out a small 400 square foot spot in Tucson, AZ and filled the store with pieces from Kerstin’s own closet. They also asked friends to bring things in. Soon enough, they had a bustling business buying, selling and trading the likes of denim skirts handmade by Kerstin, Hawaiian shirts and Kork-Ease sandals, drawing in lots of students from the University of Arizona. Their most common price? $3.50.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Kerstin holding clothing

Originally from Sweden, Kerstin chose “Buffalo” because she liked the way it evoked the American West. Spencer contributed the “Exchange” half of the name since that’s precisely what they would be doing – opening up a shop where you could exchange your clothing for cash or trade on-the-spot, an uncommon model at the time. And just like that, they ran the business together, doing everything themselves. Kerstin was the face of the store, running the register and doing all the buying. Spencer worked behind the scenes, creating clothing racks out of water pipes and handling the accounting.

Resale wasn’t very popular at the time, but they knew there would always be people who wanted to find something cute for a good deal: they just didn’t necessarily want to dig through so many pieces in a thrift store setting. “We made it look like a little boutique,” says Kerstin. They handpicked each item based on what their customers were interested in buying and displayed them in a fun, easy-to-shop space.

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Spencer and Kerstin inside store 1977

Charting New Territory

Kerstin and Spencer didn’t know much about business, but they weren’t afraid to venture into uncharted territory. Par for the course for Kerstin, who struck out on her own at the age of 18, taking a boat over from Sweden to study at the University of Arizona. What they initially lacked in business knowledge, they made up for in strong values. “We built our business on a lot of principles,” she says, “such as respecting people and treating everybody fairly and listening to people. Those are our tenets in business.”

Not Your Average Thrift Store - History of Buffalo Exchange - Staff in front of store mid 70s

As they opened more locations – a store here and a store there – those tenets only grew. They knew how important it was to be honest and the value of people – both employees and customers alike. After all, they relied on their customers to bring in clothing and they relied on their employees to build a diverse inventory. To do this, they valued individuality and embraced the things that make each person unique. They empowered people, taking into consideration what they wanted out of the job and teaching them how the business works.

Perhaps it’s these tenets (not to mention a true passion for clothing) that have kept the business going strong for 45 years and counting. Today, Buffalo Exchange is still owned and operated out of Tucson, AZ by Kerstin and her daughter, Vice President Rebecca Block. Kerstin still oversees the daily operations of the business. “What I’m most proud of is how much we’ve been able to empower people – especially women,” she says. “That and the clothes. It’s always been about the clothes.” Now, that love for fashion has spread to around 50 stores – and growing all the time. Visit BuffaloExchange.com/Locations to find one near you!

 

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The Best Way to Sell Clothes: A Quick Guide to Trading In Your Closet at Buffalo Exchange

The Best Way to Sell Clothes: A Quick Guide to Selling Your Clothes at Buffalo Exchange

By Aarian Frye

Ready to clean out your closet and looking for the best way to sell clothes? Tackling this task is no easy feat, so here’s a handy guide to navigate through your overstuffed wardrobe and into the world of resale fashion! Keep reading for a few tips to easily pare down and sell your past favorites to Buffalo Exchange.

The Best Way to Sell Clothes at Buffalo Exchange Closet Cleanout

Go Marie Kondo on Your Closet

The first step is to Marie Kondo your closet! Ask yourself if you’ve worn it in the past year or if you’re only holding onto it for sentimental reasons (your mom gave it to you, you really liked it but never get around to wearing it, etc). Most importantly, ask yourself if it truly sparks joy for you! If you’re keeping an item under the conditions of losing or gaining weight, magically growing six inches as an adult or being invited to some fantastical special occasion, it may be time to sell it or donate it so that it can spark joy for someone new.

The-Best-Way-to-Sell-Clothes-at-Buffalo-Marie-Kondo-Closetjpg

Get Sorted

As you pull items out of your closet, the second step is to sort everything into two piles – one to sell and one to donate instead of bringing it to Buffalo. If an item has a small spot that won’t wash out or a hole, you may want to donate it to a local non-profit. Pro Tip: Don’t over-edit your bag of items to sell! Buffalo takes in the best of all seasons, year-round and is always looking for a wide variety of freshly laundered styles in good condition. When in doubt, bring it in! PS If there’s no Buffalo near you or you’re too busy to bring your closet cleanout into the store, try Sell By Mail. Order a kit online, fill it up and drop it off with UPS! Within a few weeks of Buffalo Exchange receiving it, you’ll have extra cash in your pocket or trade to spend.

The-Best-Way-to-Sell-Clothes-at-Buffalo-Exchange-Buyer

The Best Way to Sell Clothes

Woohoo, you made it to Buffalo Exchange! If there are other people waiting to sell, the Buyers may ask you to have a seat or jump in line. When they call you up to the counter, they’ll ask for your ID and phone number. If you’re anxious about your clothing being judged, don’t stress. Buffalo’s Buyers will be happy to take a look at everything you brought and they base their decisions off of styles that are currently selling well for the store, not off a personal judgment call. In order to make educated decisions, Buyers go through a ton of initial training and, even after that, it’s an ongoing learning process. Buyers spend a lot of time researching current styles, talking to customers about what they’re shopping for and going through the store’s inventory to find out what’s selling well, what’s not selling so well and which areas are either lacking or overly full.

The-Best-Way-to-Sell-Clothes-at-Buffalo-Exchange-Richmond-Buy-Counter

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Meet Sedona – One of Brooklyn’s Bands to Watch

Sedona Band Photographed by Katherine Bonnie

By Katherine Bonnie & Aarian Frye, Photography by Katherine Bonnie

Sedona, band in vintage nightgowns, photographed by Katherine Bonnie

Meet Sedona: the electrifying dirty pop group based out of New York City. The band is comprised of five members: Tia on drums, Merilyn on keyboard, Claire on guitar, and Lily on bass with lead singer Sedona at the forefront. Even though the group has a wide array of personal styles, they’re all avid thrifters with an appreciation for vintage gems. It’s little surprise, then, that the group loves shopping at Buffalo! “I’ve shopped at Buffalo for as long as I’ve lived in New York, so four years now,” Claire says. “My entire outfit is from Buffalo Exchange!” Tia adds.

Sedona, band seated for portrait, photographed by Katherine Bonnie

Sedona did their first tour in March of 2019, driving 70 hours across the country in an old church bus to play SXSW and venues in New Orleans, Pennsylvania and their home base of NYC. “We played a bunch of shows. It was beyond fun to travel and perform with a group of inspiring ladies that I’m lucky enough to call my family!” says lead singer Sedona. They returned full of inspiration for new projects. All five members of the band light up when they talk about their plans for the group. “We set aside some time this summer to write together, which was a first for us, and we can’t wait to play more shows.”

Sedona’s next show is at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on Wednesday, August 14th. You can find their music on Spotify, Soundcloud and Youtube and keep up with the band on Instagram and Facebook. If you’re feeling inspired by this band’s catchy tunes and unique personal styling, head to your local Buffalo Exchange to shop some vintage finds of your own!

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Meet NYC Creative Paris Warren

By Savy Kroop, Photography by Tracy Awino (@narnah)

We recently had the chance to chat with Paris Warren, a longtime Buffalo Exchange shopper and creative freelancer based in New York. In his professional life, he enjoys wearing a number of hats – from stylist to fashion director to magazine editor and more! This approach applies to his personal style as well – “I’m open to wearing anything,” he says. He describes his style as eclectic and loves shopping for unique pieces at Buffalo.

Be True to Who You Are

On a day-to-day basis, Paris takes inspiration from the people on the streets of New York and admires well-thought out looks with attention to detail. “It never gets old,” he says of NY street style. He believes in pushing the limits of personal style without sacrificing comfort. “Be true to who you are,” he advises, “and let that resonate with what you wear.”

The Paris Warren Essentials

For summer (especially in humid NYC), Paris’ ideal look consists of biker shorts and a graphic tee – basically something easy and breezy to throw on. He’s all about the layering, though, so he personally can’t wait for fall and winter to come back around. This season, he’ll be frequenting one of NY’s six Buffalo Exchange stores in search of faux fur jackets in a variety of fun colors.

One Person’s Closet Cleanout is Another’s Treasure

Paris loves wearing pieces from independent designers as well as secondhand finds from places like Buffalo. “A lot of people don’t know anything about Buffalo Exchange,” he says, “but they should take the opportunity. The staff is really nice and goes above and beyond. There’s also a lot of versatility that you don’t see elsewhere and high quality products. They don’t just buy anything – the selection is curated.” His favorite Buffalo find of all time? A vintage Christian Dior jacket that he scored at Buffalo Exchange Houston. “I don’t only look for high-end brands,” he says, “but it’s pretty amazing when you can find a deal like that.”

However you choose to express your personal style, take it from fashion enthusiast Paris Warren: shopping secondhand is the way to go! Grab your cleanout and head to your local Buffalo Exchange to trade it in and shop for some new-to-you finds – you might score the likes of a vintage designer jacket or even just the perfect pair of jeans.

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New Giving Back Initiative: Clothing for the Community®

By Savy Kroop

Drumroll, please… we’re happy to announce our latest giving back initiative – Clothing for the Community®! Through this new program, a wide variety of Southern Arizona non-profits can receive large donations of clothing and accessories from our Sell By Mail department to help them fundraise and do even more awesome work in community.

How Clothing for the Community Works

Essentially, non-profits can use these items to host a fundraising $1 sale. Here at Buffalo, we’ll coach them through the process by providing support, advice, local promotion and, of course, a lot of $1 clothing and accessories to sell. Are you a Tucson-area 501(c)(3) non-profit? Send us an email at PR@BufEx.com to let us know you’re interested in becoming a beneficiary!

The first non-profit to benefit from Clothing for the Community® is Ben’s Bells, an organization that teaches individuals and communities about the positive impact of intentional kindness. Shop, save and fundraise for this great cause during their $1 Sale on Saturday, July 20 at 40 W Broadway Blvd. The sale starts at 8am and is cash only.

Making Sure That No Clothing Goes to Waste

At Buffalo Exchange, recycling is the name of the game and it’s always been part of our mission to make sure that no clothing goes to waste. That’s why we give customers the chance to donate the items we’re unable to buy to local non-profits at many of our stores and also why we send any items that don’t sell to our outlets in Nogales, AZ and San Antonio, TX before donating them. This Clothing for the Community® program is just one more way to give clothing a second life and support local non-profits in any we can.

Over the past 45 years, we’ve spearheaded a variety of giving back initiatives. Through our annual Earth Day $1 Day Sale, we’ve raised over $717,900 since 1997 for non-profits like The 5 Gyres Institute and The Humane Society of the United States. We also run a Tokens for Bags® program in which we give customers charity tokens with each purchase instead of plastic bags. Yes, you heard it right – you can give back to your community just by shopping at your local Buffalo. Since launching Tokens for Bags in 1994, we’ve kept more than 15.5 million plastic bags out of the environment and raised $778,660 for local charities. Find out more at BuffaloExchange.com/GivingBack!

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New York Style: Q & A with Our Buffalo Exchange Astoria Customers

Buffalo Exchange Astoria New York Style Customers

By Andrew Bickerton

When I think of New York City’s boroughs, I think of diverse cultures, rich history and, well, pizza. Lots of pizza! When my craving for a slice has subsided, I also think of New York style and the unique ways in which individuals express themselves. We caught up with some of our customers at Buffalo Exchange Astoria in Queens to find out what they love about Buffalo, their style tips and their favorite finds over the years.

Buffalo Exchange New York Style Customer Deb Gingham Jeans White Boots Buffalo Exchange New York Style Customer Deb Sequin Tiger Jacket

 

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone: Meet Deb

What Deb loves about shopping at Buffalo Exchange is the friendly staff that helps you out with any and everything. Not to mention that it has inspired Deb throughout the years to try out pieces she wouldn’t normally wear. Deb’s best piece of style advice? Go for it and don’t be afraid to take chances – you just might be surprised how different it looks on you than on the rack! In a word, Deb describes her style as “eclectic”. Her favorite Buffalo find is a Louis Vuitton bag and sequined tiger jacket.

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Party Like It’s 1776: 4th of July Outfits for Your Summer Gathering

4th-of-July-Outfits

By Anevay Robinson

What are you wearing this 4th of July? Whether you’re traveling for a four-day weekend, pool partying with friends or just kicking it low key, we have a lineup of red, white and blue-inspired looks. Keep the spark alive all day long with these 4th of July outfits!

Buffalo Exchange 4th of July Outfits Concert Outfit Band Tee

Pump Up the Jams

It’s time to celebrate America’s birthday, so don’t forget the jams. If you’re planning on dancing the night away at a festival, start off your look with a distressed band tee, then add shorts and a pair of classic black boots. No look is complete without an accessory – since many festivals require a see-through bag, be sure to add a clear cross-body to your outfit.

Buffalo Exchange 4th of July Outfits Airport Style Comfy Outfit Adidas

On The Road Again

Traveling this 4th of July? Whether the journey is long or short, unwind in a comfy pair of blue sweats accented with pops of red on a graphic tee. Put on some kicks and your outfit is complete! You’ll be comfy on the plane or in the car, yet festive enough to head straight to a gathering with friends!

Buffalo Exchange 4th of July Outfits Pool Party Printed Shorts Tie Dye Adidas

Splashtastic Event

Dive into your pool party with a magnificent tie dye shirt and tropical shorts. This is one of those 4th of July outfits that’s sure to make waves this Independence day! But don’t slip and slide everywhere – finish off the look by adding some crisp white sneakers or slide-on sandals.

Buffalo Exchange 4th of July Outfits Two Piece Printed Watermelon Set

4th of July Outfits to Picnic In

This look is sure to make your mouth water! Get the family picnic started with a watermelon-print two-piece set, then add a cute basket purse and sandals for one of the cutest 4th of July outfits ever.

Buffalo Exchange 4th of July Outfits Chubbies American Flag Shorts Huf Hat

Cookout

If you’re fired up for an epic barbecue this 4th of July, stop right there! I don’t know about you, but these American flag Chubbies are EVERYTHING. Need more red, white and BLUE? Complete this look with blue velvet slip-ons and a blue-accented ball cap.

Oh say can you see all those super cute outfits at your local Buffalo Exchange? Head on down to shop for the 4th of July outfits of your dreams or just some fun summer finds. Oh, and remember to bring along your closet cleanout – we’re buying for the best of all seasons and you could trade in the pieces you’re not wearing for something positively star-spangled!

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How to Pack Light: Summer Carry-on Tips

By Savy Kroop

Summer is here and it’s time to kick back and relax with a trip to your destination of choice! If you’re anything like me, though, traveling, packing and airports can be stressful. We all know you’re supposed to “pack light”, but it’s easier said than done. How are you supposed to pack a bag that’s small enough to carry-on and still look cute throughout your entire vacation? The solution lies in creating a mini summer capsule wardrobe! When every single piece you pack goes together, you can’t really go wrong.

What to Take on the Plane

This one’s an oft-proclaimed traveling tip, but it bears repeating: wear your bulkiest pair of shoes and your jacket on the plane. This will allow you to pack light without sacrificing important pieces – whether it’s a pair chunky sneakers or your favorite denim jacket. Not to mention that planes often get very cold, so having your jacket handy is a win-win.

For your one personal item, I recommend a cute backpack instead of a purse. This will give you a lot more capacity and is great for on-the-go sightseeing. Lastly, don’t forget to bring a refillable water bottle (empty it out before security, of course). This will save you from buying a $6 bottle of water at the airport and/or desperately waiting for your flight attendant to come around with a teeny glass of water to quench your thirst.

Pack Light with a Vacation Capsule Wardrobe

I used to plan out every single outfit for each day of my vacation. This usually ended up in a suitcase overstuffed with an obscene amount of shoes, not to mention that I brought along tons of pieces that I never ended up wearing. No more! Even though I don’t subscribe to a capsule wardrobe when I’m at home, it makes vacation packing a warm ocean breeze.

A capsule wardrobe is a selection of staple items that can be easily mixed and matched. When I recently went to Florida to visit my family, for example, I brought along:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 3 tee shirts
  • 1 dress
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 pairs of shoes
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses

With these items, I was able to put together at least 5 completely different looks! It also gave me a lot of flexibility to create an outfit that actually fit the temperature and situation on-the-fly. What they say is true – less is more! When you pack light with a capsule wardrobe, you can customize it to any style, but I definitely recommend including a simple T-shirt. You can wear it tucked, untucked, tied in a knot, over or under a dress and, if you’re feeling crazy, you could even cut into a crop top.

Double the Fun

My favorite tip to pack light is bringing pieces that can serve more than one purpose – for example, this sweet lemon-print swimsuit that can double as a cute tank top. BOOM! You just created another look for your vacation wardrobe. P.S. If you’re bringing extra sunnies and don’t have a case for them, just tuck them into your shoes to keep them safe throughout your journey.

The key to a successful capsule wardrobe, of course, is having solid staples that you truly love. If you’re not finding what you need in your own wardrobe, head down to your local Buffalo Exchange to trade in that great pair of jeans that just never fit quite right for new-to-you summer styles perfect for your vacation capsule wardrobe. Bon voyage!

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Express Yourself: Buffalo Exchange’s Pride Fashion Lookbook

Happy summer, everyone! Although the summer solstice is still on the horizon, the festivities have already begun – most notably Pride. Whether you’re strutting your stuff at Pride as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community or you’re tagging along as an ally, we’ve compiled a bundle of inspiration for you to take along on your pre-Pride shopping trip!

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, Men's rainbow jumpsuit

Pride Flag jumpsuit at NYC Pride 2018

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, Rainbow Butterfly Cape

A magnificent butterfly cape from Buffalo Exchange Astoria

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion,Pink sequined t-shirt Sequins at NYC Pride

Buffalo Exchange, New York, Pride Fashion, 60s psychedelic jumpsuit

Psychedelic Jumpsuit at NYC PrideFull Story

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I Got It From My Mama: How I Discovered My Personal Style

Buffalo Exchange Happy Mother's Day Personal Style

By Savy Kroop

I wish this wasn’t such a corny cliché, but yes, I will happily call my mom my best friend. Her optimistic and confident personality has made me the way I am today. She is the most open-minded person I know and believes wholeheartedly in being your own person. Her view on individualism has created what she jokingly calls a “brat” who knows what she wants (i.e. me). From a young age, I started experimenting with my personal style and my mom let me wear whatever I wanted. From hairstyles to clothes to friends, she let me choose my own path and express myself the way I wanted. And yes, I blame her for every horrible fashion choice I made.

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day White Cowboy Boots

These Boots Were Made For Never Taking Off

Some kids had a favorite blanket, teddy bear or doll. Not me! I had my favorite boots. They were white Western boots that, in my mind, went with everything (even my Easter Sunday dress). My grandma constantly would try to get my mom to a) brush my hair and b) “take those dang cowboy boots off!” My mom would reply with something along the lines of, “Just let her be herself.” Of course, I don’t remember much of this. I will say, however, that I currently have a new pair of white cowboy boots that I wear regularly. Coincidence? I think not.

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day White Cowboy Boots

WHY2k Did You Let Me Wear This?

The white cowboy boot story may be cute, but as I got older and continued to express myself through my personal style, my fashion journey took on a slightly more embarrassing tone. BUT I think we can all agree that we made questionable fashion choices in the early 2000s, right? At that time, I started becoming obsessed with brands, logos and shopping at the mall. It started with Limited Too and then progressed to wanting an exclusively Hollister-filled wardrobe. My mom was not too thrilled about shopping at these stores because, well, they were more expensive than the secondhand stores we used to shop at before my mall-brat phase. However, she was patient with me and let me shop the Hollister sale section and even buy the occasional full-price pair of jeans!

Buffalo Exchange Mother's Day Personal Style

New Style, Who Dis?

My mom’s patience paid off in the end though, because when I got to high-school, I discovered thrift shopping for myself. I realized it was a great way to find unique pieces that no one else had. My mom went from being reluctant to go shopping with me to being excited! She knew that I was still figuring out my personal style and thrift shopping was a great way for me to discover what it was (and on a budget, too!). Shopping secondhand allowed me to try out a wide variety of styles and trends, from boho/beach babe to Instagram-coffee-shop hipster to punk chick, all the way to who I am today! I discovered my personal style on my own, but I owe it to my mom for encouraging me to follow my own path and giving me the freedom to do so.

In the midst of switching up your own personal style? I recommend stopping by your local Buffalo Exchange to find new-to-you pieces that totally speak to your sense of style. Better yet, bring in your closet cleanout and you you could take home 30% back in cash or 50% in trade to spruce up your wardrobe. P.S. Need a fun Mom’s Day idea? Go resale shopping! You and your mom will both find something you love.

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Thank You for Shopping Our Earth Day $1 Day Sale!

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Charity Donation

By Jessica Pruitt

Drumroll, please…the final numbers are in! To all of you who stopped by our annual Earth Day $1 Day Sale on Saturday, April 20, we want to say a HUGE THANK YOU for helping us raise $52,628 for the Humane Society of the United States’ Animal Rescue Team! WOW! That’s the most money we’ve EVER raised from a $1 Day Sale. It’s also a whole lot of happy animals! We couldn’t have done it without you.

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Cute Puppy Dog Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Las Vegas Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Bargain Shopping Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results

Teaming Up with the Animal Rescue Team

Every year, we hold an Earth Day $1 Day Sale on the Saturday closest to Earth Day at all of our stores (except outlets) and donate 100% of the proceeds to a deserving non-profit. This year, we teamed up with the HSUS’ Animal Rescue Team to help out animals in need!

Not only does the Animal Rescue Team save animals from abusive conditions like animal fighting operations and puppy mills – they recently rescued 84 Great Danes from an abusive breeder in New Hampshire – but they are also ready to deploy at a moment’s notice to help animals during natural disasters. During the 2017 hurricane season, the Animal Rescue Team helped more than 2,000 animals following Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. They do this by developing pet-friendly evacuation plans, moving pets out of harm’s way before a storm and performing emergency field rescues when needed.

Buffalo Exchange Earth Day $1 Day Sale Results Coats for Cubs Cute Baby Bears

Coats for Cubs

Thank you to everyone who donated their fur to our Coats for Cubs program as well! Every year from January 1 through Earth Day, we invite customers to drop off fur coats they no longer want at any of our stores and let us know they’re a donation to Coats for Cubs. We then ship them off the wildlife rehabilitators across the US, who use them to provide comfort to orphaned and injured wildlife. The rehabbers say that this speeds up their healing process. This year, we collected 2,002 furs, another record-breaking amount! Since taking this initiative over from The Humane Society in 2006, we have collected and distributed more than 15,108 furs.

Since starting the Earth Day $1 Day Sale in 1997, we’ve raised over $717,900 for a variety of different charities – and we couldn’t have done it without your help! Whether you’ve been to every $1 sale for the last 20  years or you’ve never been to one before, put it on your list for next year! Remember the special selection of $1 items goes quickly and that the sale is cash only. See you next April! Want to give back in the meantime? Just stop by your local Buffalo Exchange. Through our Tokens for Bags® program, we give out charity tokens instead of bags with each purchase that you can donate to one of three local non-profits!