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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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Lessons in Style from Buffalo Exchange Shopper Mark Aubrey

Mark Aubrey, orange wall, sunglasses and hat - Blog Post header

By Aarian Frye; Photography by Furey Stirrat  

A Tucson transplant by way of the great plains, Mark Aubrey is a longtime Buffalo Exchange customer with a unique sense of style and a great appreciation for secondhand shopping. Mark grew up in Oklahoma, where his love of patterns, color and texture got a lot of attention. When he traveled down to the Southwest for grad school, he discovered Buffalo Exchange Tucson. Since then, he’s browsed his way through various locations over the past 28 years and found some amazing pieces along the way – find out what he loves about shopping resale!

Mark in silver puffy jacket

Mark with denim Jacket

Mark’s Favorite Buffalo Finds 

Since starting to shop at Buffalo Exchange, Mark has collected many pieces to round out his style – a gold pair of Oakley sunglasses and a Minnetonka bucket hat are among his favorites. In fact, the vintage leather hat is such a prized possession that, when it went missing one time, Mark’s friends created a lost-and-found post on social media. Luckily, Mark shares with a chuckle, the hat “was found stuffed between the wall and my bed’s headboard.” In keeping with his love of accessories, Mark’s favorite section in the store is the shoe wall – he’s always in search of his next pair of sneakers.

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Art in ATX: Local Artist Alex Coronel’s Mural At Buffalo Exchange Austin

Local Artist Alex Coronel’s Mural At Buffalo Exchange Austin

By Marcella Willden, Photography and Artwork by Alex Coronel 

It’s been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but we think this new mural at Buffalo Exchange Austin, painted by local artist Alex Coronel, is easily worth 1 million! To learn more about his incredible mural, we caught up with Alex to chat about his creative process, passion for art and love for Buffalo Exchange.

Alex Coronel and his dog

When did your passion for art begin?

I’ve always considered myself an artist and I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember! When I worked for a friend’s theater company after college, I started creating murals without even knowing it — they needed an artist, so I signed on and painted a few backdrops. That experience came in handy when I applied to do my first mural and I felt more prepared than I initially thought I would!

 Alex Coronel’s paintings

How would you describe your artistic style?

I’d say that my style is ever-changing and unlimited. I would never want to snuff the light of an idea just because it wouldn’t fit into a certain style of mine. So, a lot of the time, I try a medium or style I’m not too familiar with. I quite enjoy it!

Alex Coronel’s paintings

What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

Take chances! Instead of limited yourself to an 8×11 canvas, paint on something that’s 6 feet tall. Fill that space with something big— it doesn’t literally have to be a 6ft canvas, it can be anything that intimidates you. It might not be what you initially had in mind, but you may surprise yourself. I want to encourage aspiring artists to explore the art world with confidence and tenacity.

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Happy New Year and Thank You for a Wonderful 2019!

As 2019 comes to its end and we enter the new decade, we find ourselves grateful for all of the wonderful things that have happened over the past year and we’re looking forward to what’s to come. We want to say thank you to all of the customers and employees who have supported Buffalo Exchange through the years and contributed to our success. We simply couldn’t do it without you! Wishing everyone a fantastic 2020!

Buffalo Exchange Seattle (Market)

Buffalo Exchange Minneapolis

Buffalo Exchange Las Vegas

Buffalo Exchange Charlotte

Buffalo Exchange Eugene

Buffalo Exchange Pittsburgh

Buffalo Exchange San Diego (Hillcrest)

Buffalo Exchange Philadelphia

Buffalo Exchange San Diego (Pacific Beach)

Buffalo Exchange New Orleans

Do your New Year’s resolutions involve a love for fashion, people and working hard in a fun and friendly environment? Start 2020 off right by joining our herd! We’re always looking to expand our Buffalo Family and we offer a ton of perks like paid time off and an employee discount to name a few. If you’re looking for a fresh start to the New Year, stop by any of our locations and apply in-store or online today. Happy New Year!

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Tokens for Bags® Charities

Every six months, we support new local charities through our Tokens for Bags® program. Instead of giving out bags, we give customers the opportunity to donate five cents (the cost of the bag) to a charity of their choice. Our Tokens for Bags® program has raised over $803,000 for thousands of local charities since 1994, saving over 16.06 million bags from polluting the environment!

Find your local Buffalo Exchange below and check out the charities you can give back to.

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Way Out West: Meet Buffalo Exchange Austin Store Manager Lucy

Ever wanted to know more about the amazing people that make up Buffalo Exchange? Recently, we caught up with Lucy Abare, Store Manager at Buffalo Exchange Austin, to ask her a few questions about how she got started at Buffalo Exchange and what the job means to her!

What led you to apply at Buffalo?

I was new to Austin and loved fashion. Walking into Buffalo Exchange for the first time was exciting because it gave me a feel for my new neighborhood and community. I remember feeling like this was a place I could see myself working. While waiting to sell clothes one day I decided to fill out an application. 

What position did you start out in?

I started as a part-time Buyer and just immersed myself in the clothing and the culture. I loved the job and gave it my all every day. About a year into the job, a management position opened up and my manager asked me to apply. I didn’t think I was the person they needed for the job, but they were confident I would be good at it. Six years later, here we are! I’m so glad they believed in me and gave me the push to try something new.

What do you like best about the job?

Every Buffalo Exchange store is so connected to its local community. I love getting to meet all of our customers – especially new people that I wouldn’t meet in my own social circles. The job really broadened my horizons in that way.

How do you think your employees would describe the environment at your store?

Supportive and fun. The environment is also one of endless curiosity – employees want to learn more and are always working to do so. I really encourage them to try new things and be okay with mistakes so long as they learn from them. I also love coaching and being a team leader because I’m able to motivate my staff every day to learn more and improve. 

What kind of skills do you think you’ve picked up along the way?

I’ve learned a lot over the years, but the most valuable thing I’ve picked up is people skills – how to build authentic relationships with people. Buffalo Exchange places a lot of emphasis on transparency and honest communication.

What is your impression of Buffalo Exchange as a company?

The things Buffalo Exchange values are the things that I value in my personal life – giving back to the community and giving back to the environment. I think that the way Buffalo Exchange values people and our world is so important. It allows us to be collectively sustainable and to grow as we move forward.

Does working at Buffalo Exchange sound like the job for you? You’re in luck because we’re hiring at locations across the country! Your love for fashion, sustainability and working with people could be the perfect fit. Learn more about our open positions, then apply online or stop into your local Buffalo Exchange – we’d love to meet you in person!

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Holiday Lookbook: Sparkly 80s Prom Inspiration

Lookbook 80s prom New Years Inspiration, Blog

By Marcella Willden, Photography by Monique Woolley for Buffalo Exchange Hillcrest

2020 is just around the corner and so are the New Year’s Eve parties! Do you have your look ready to ring in the new decade? If not, we’ve got you covered: scroll through to get some 80s prom-themed inspiration from Buffalo Exchange San Diego (Hillcrest)!

80s prom New Years Inspiration

80s prom New Years Inspiration, Balloons

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DIY Holiday Sweaters: Cac-tis’ The Season!

Savy and Marcella wearing DIY Cactus Sweaters

By Marcella Willden & Savy Kroop

The holiday season is here, which means it’s time to take your favorite sweaters out of your closet and rock them at all of the holiday parties! Don’t want to repeat the same look from last year? Buffalo Exchange has your back! Stop into your local Buffalo for tons of cute and cozy options. OR, if you’re you feeling a little crafty, you can try DIY-ing your own holiday sweater. This festive cactus sweater is a fun twist on a traditional holiday sweater that we’re sure will have you looking ON-POINT this season!

Marcella and Savy crafting their sweaters

What You’ll Need to DIY Your Cactus Holiday Sweaters

The first (and maybe obvious) step is to get a sweater! You can sift through your closet to find one you don’t wear anymore or you can stop by your local Buffalo Exchange to pick one up – like we did! We found these cute, coordinating gray sweaters with statement sleeves for extra festive flair. While we were out-and-about, we stopped into the dollar store to get all of our crafting supplies. In total, we spent about $30 on this project for both sweaters and it only took about 30 minutes from start to finish. We had so much fun DIY-ing these sweaters that I think we found a new holiday tradition!

Supplies:

Sweater, Felt, Pom pom balls, Pipe cleaners, Hot glue gun and glue sticks, Scissors, Marker, Optional: Other crafty supplies like ribbon and glitter

Savy cutting out felt for cactus

Marcella cutting out felt for cactus

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Cool-Weather Lookbook: Sportswear Edition

Sportswear lookbook: Cool weather

By Marcella Willden; Photography by Nina Paz, Rachel Eselman and Hanae Clark

My favorite season is finally here! One of the things that I love the most about the cooler weather is the ability it gives me to layer a ton of different colors, textures, and patterns. I also love to be comfy when it’s cool outside, so I’m super inspired by street style sportswear – whether it’s jerseys, oversized camouflage, fuzzy bomber jackets or retro color blocking. Read on for some street style inspiration from Buffalo Exchange Tempe, Washington DC, and Atlanta!

AZ2 Orange sweater with Orange Jacket and Coyotes Jersey

White striped sweaters, Tempe, AZ

White striped sweaters, Tempe, AZ

Phoenix Suns Jersey and Green skirt outfit, Tempe AZ

Phoenix Suns Jersey, Tempe AZ

Astros Jersey and Orange jacket outfit, Tempe AZ

Slam Dunk Style at Buffalo Exchange Tempe

When the weather cools down, continue rocking all your favorite basketball jerseys by layering a long sleeve underneath and pairing with jeans and sneakers. Photography by Nina Paz for Buffalo Exchange Tempe.

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Fall/Winter Fashion Lookbook: Classic Menswear and Layers

Header- Chris Bogard Zine

By Savy Kroop; Styling and Photography by Chris Bogard; Modeling by Roberto Aguilar & Brandon Santana

With temperatures dropping, it’s time to break out the layers! For cooler temps, we’re loving classically rich colors like mustard and maroon and bright details like graphic prints and pops of orange. Scroll through for a fresh take on classic menswear from photographer Chris Bogard at Buffalo Exchange Brooklyn (Williamsburg).

Chris Bogar ZIne Chris Bogar ZIne

Brighten up a gloomy day with a neon orange jacket or vest!

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Meet the Sustainably Stylish Sister Duo: Krewella

By Savy Kroop, Photography by Lauren Dunn

Krewella is a woman-fronted, Pakistani-American musical duo based out of LA with an ear for electrifying dance music and an eye for eclectic, sustainable fashion. On and off the stage, the sisters, Jahan and Yasmine, express their creativity through their unique style. Over the past three years, they’ve made various lifestyle changes in order to live more sustainably – hang-drying clothing, for example, switching to LED lights and, of course, shopping secondhand at Buffalo Exchange!

An Open Mind is the Best Accessory

Jahan and Yasmine are passionate about keeping an open mind when it comes to alternative ways of self-expression. The sisters believe the key to personal style is unleashing your creativity and going with the colors, patterns and styles you are authentically drawn to.

Vintage Finds & Variety

Whether the girls are performing at a music festival or just heading out on the town, you can expect to see them rocking their ever-evolving, futuristic-meets-vintage style. If you were to take a peek into their wardrobe, you could find everything from vintage tees and traditional tunics with ornate patterns and embroidery to baggy athletic pants and studded belts. The sisters love discovering hidden treasures at Buffalo Exchange!

Rule #1: There Are No Rules!
A few years ago, Jahan and Yasmine began infusing vocals and percussion inspired by the sounds of Pakistan into their music. The resulting sounds – both playful and experimental – have in turn influenced their fashion choices. 

Krewella released two new singles in 2019, Ghost and Mana, which you can find on Spotify and Youtube. Be sure to keep up with these artistic gals on Instagram and Twitter for out-of-this-world music and fashion inspo. Then, if you’re feeling inspired by their catchy tunes and unique aesthetic, head to your local Buffalo Exchange to shop for colors and patterns that speak to YOU!