As the wise character that is Rebecca Bloomwood noted during retail therapy, I mean, rehabilitation, “Stores are put there to enjoy. The experience is enjoyable. I mean, more than enjoyable. It’s, it’s beautiful. The sheen of silk draped across a manikin, the smell of Italian leather shoes. The rush you feel when you swipe you card and it’s approved, and it all belongs to you. The joy you feel when you bought something and it’s just you and the shopping.”
These past few months I had forgotten about the feeling you get when you finally find the perfect skirt and are not disappointed by the price. I had forgotten about the excitement which comes after you spot a purse from the other side of a store and quickly pace across the floor to check it out and the warmness that wraps you when you find a dress, hold it against you as you look in the mirror, and can’t help but to run to the fitting room. But this past week, I felt the rush the star of Confessions of a Shopaholic describes when I visited Buffalo Exchange in Center City.
It was that kind of trip in which you feel that you are suddenly losing control, you become hungry for every item in sight and end up hoping that the next thing you try on is too big or too small because if it’s just the right fit, you know you’ll end up buying it. To be honest, I almost decided not to write about this place because I wanted to keep it on the down-low, but out of the goodness of my heart, here are my thoughts:
1713 Chestnut Street (west of 17th St.)
(215) 557-9850; buffaloexchange.com
This consignment shop sells women’s and men’s clothing and accessories and is part of a larger national company consisting of 41 stores and 3 franchises in 15 states. The privately owned chain originally from Arizona strives to provide a place for customers to buy, sell, and trade recycled and new clothing.
RATING: 4.5 out of 5
In New York City, this was my least favorite consignment shop, but the Philadelphia location changed my thoughts about the chain.
The layout of this location is more pleasant than the New York location. Racks are organized according to type of apparel and separated by size (and when I say separated, I mean I only found two strays in an incorrect rack during my visit). It is perfectly set up so that if you are in need of a blouse, you can go to the blouses section, look up your size and hopefully see something you like.
For a store whose mission is to recycle clothing, I did not expect to discover so many pieces of name brand clothing. Among other items were a Free People print keyhole dress ($22, usually ranging from $96 to 114), a Club Monaco mini skirt ($22, usually $80). There were also plenty of non-designers pieces at low prices like a gorgeous long sleek black gown with a cutout and mesh detail ($17.50) and a precious pale pink delicately spotted cheetah print blouse ($11).
The accessories section had a wide range of different necklaces including bib necklaces ($11) and sunglasses ($17). This portion of the store includes both consigned merchandised and merchandise purchased by Buffalo Exchange. This includes sunglasses, jewelry, hair accessories and tights.
What I found the most surprising is how abundant brand new clothing with tags still intact is here. I ran into an unused t.l.h. by hype shirt ($16, usually sold for around $65) and Fluxus print harem pants ($23, often sold for approximately $115). Even the shoes seemed untouched and had perfectly clean outsoles. A few examples include Dollhouse leopard print heels ($13, usually $40) and yellow (trend alert!) Nine West cutout strap heels ($11, usually $55).
As much as I hate to say it, Buffalo Exchange had speed bumps. Although I found many items I fell in love with, the store was bustling with people and it became apparent while waiting in line for fitting rooms.
The men’s clothing section is up to date. It has casual plaid button downs as well as brighter colored shirts for spring and summer, plenty of bottoms, and even a decent selection of dressy shirts. However, as far a selection of men’s shoes goes, it is very limited.
Additionally, as far as finding basic solid colored apparel goes, this is not the place to go. You will easily get lost among the wild prints and sometimes extravagantly odd patterns.
As with every consignment shop or thrift store, there is fine print. Not every shopping experience predicts how the next one will go. At times, the store may have the perfect combination of merchandise for you and the second time around it can be the total opposite.
Buffalo Exchange provided me with an enjoyable experience. Originally, I thought that living in an arboretum would keep me from constantly thinking about clothing and be therapeutic. However, as my friends have recently noted, I become, once again, obsessed. Thank you, fellow Swatties, for allowing me to fall off the wagon. It is a pleasure to shop for someone’s benefit. Until next time, my lovely shoppers!
Consignment Shopping FYIs:
1. Please, and I beg, please be sure to inspect a piece inside and out before making your purchase. Sometimes, you’ll find a rip or tear and most thrift stores offer either final sales or store credit for returns.
2. Don’t be afraid to buy something edgy and bold here! Thrift stores should be a place to experiment with colors and prints as well as test grounds with new trendy buys that aren’t as costly as in department stores.
3. Don’t sacrifice quality. Sometimes even though an item may be priced right, the color is faded or the texture is odd. You deserve better!
4. Look for accessories! No lie. There are always unique and quirky finds worth buying.
5. People who tell you that consignment shops sell unwanted clothing are wrong. These shops hand pick items which are in season and attractive to customers.
6. If like something, don’t let go of it! Even if you’re not sure you’ll end up buying it, you still want to have the opportunity to do so. Remember there’s more than likely only one of everything!
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Dying for me to visit a store before you give it a try yourself? Need me to go on a hunt for a store with a particular style of merchandise? Shoot your suggestions via email.
Gaby is a first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.