Portland Pseudo-thrift

Last week I told you about our trip to Portland and promised that I’d share some more about “thrift” shops in that lovely city. A really helpful woman at the downtown info centre suggested two thrift shops: the Goodwill on 10th and the Buffalo Exchange.

buffalo exchange sign

Buffalo Exchange 1036 W. Burnside Portland

What’s cool about this place is its unique approach to second hand. It’s neither pure thrift nor pure consignment but runs more like a used book store. Rather than simply accept donations to sort through, staff will consider your donations then offer you a mix of cash and store credit for your offerings – what they don’t want, you take back. This system means they don’t have to deal with the unwanted stuff. Very Smart.

buffalo exchange interior

They are a retail store with paid employees. They are environmentally and charity oriented with a tokens-for-bags initiative in which customers are given tokens instead of bags for their stuff and for each token, Buffalo Exchange donates a nickel to a charity of the customer’s choice. Last year they raised nearly $525,000 for local charities. That’s pretty cool.

I did get this cool sticker for free. So there's that.

I did get this hip sticker for free. So there’s that.

In spite of all that great stuff, I had two problems with the shop. First, its inventory seemed to cater almost exclusively to hipsters, which is great if you’re a hipster. (Actually, Portland is over-run with hipsters – it’s like Vancouver on steroids.) I am 49 years old and, sadly, too fat to be a hipster, so there was not much there for me.

banana black close up

banana grey green close

Second, everything seemed to me to be a tad too expensive. I found these two Banana Republic sweaters – both in great condition – but the black one was $15 and the Grey/green one was $17.50 (interesting aside: both fine Italian Merino wool, black one made in Italy, the green one made in China… hmm…) Yes, I bought them. I bought them because I was on holidays and that’s what I do when I’m on holidays: I spend too much money for stuff that I wouldn’t buy if I were at home. Most things were over-priced in my opinion but the store was PACKED with hipsters who clearly have more money than me.

good will exterior

Goodwill on 10th – 838 SW 10th Avenue Portland

Goodwill is also unique in the world of thrift in that it is a social enterprise. Goodwill helps people find employment – people of all walks of life: youth, seniors, veterans, immigrants, and people with disabilities, criminal backgrounds and other specialized needs. Their stores fund their employment training and placement programs and my understanding is that people in their programs get employment experience through training in their stores and are paid for their work.

Apparently Goodwill in Portland has a place where you can do what is called “binning” – a place where you don rubber gloves and dive into bins looking for deals. Because I was on holidays with my beloved husband, I did not do this. Next time I go back, I’m taking my mom and my sister and we are TOTALLY DOING THAT.

goodwill interior

But this time, I went to this Goodwill. What made this shop stand out was that there was not a hipster in sight. This store would fit in perfectly on Vancouver’s Robson Street. It looks just like a high-end boutique with all of its mint-condition stock beautifully displayed. You could get an $800 Hugo Boss suit for $175. We looked at men’s dress pants that ranged anywhere from $20-$50. Women’s skirts seemed to average $30 each. There was not one cheap thing in the whole store. So while, yes, it is a deal to get an $800 suit for $175 – I still don’t want to pay $175 for a suit. If I’m in a thrift shop, I want to pay $15 for suit. I want to pay $3 for a skirt. (Ya, ya, I know… I spent $15/$17.50 on sweaters… )

So  in the end, I didn’t get a whole lot of great thrift deals in Portland but I still had a terrific time there.

What do you think? Am I justified in my complaints? Or am I just cheap? Or am I just a walking contradiction?

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9 Responses to Portland Pseudo-thrift

  1. Rachael says:

    I like Buffalo Exchange. I’ve been to the one in the U-District in Seattle and one in Boise, ID. Your description of the Portland one sounds a lot like the Seattle one. The one in Boise, however, was a lot more like “your average thrift store” in terms of the kinds of clothes they carried, which I thought was really interesting. They seem to cater to their local demographic.

    And I would never pay $30 for a skirt at a thrift store!

    • I guess if the local demographic is doing the donating, then that’s also who is doing the shopping! makes sense – and would make sense like the Seattle and Portland ones would be similar. So, i guess a cheapskate like me should find a cheapskate destination if i want to shop Buffalo Exchange! LOL.

  2. Darnell says:

    Ur cheap Angelica, bottom line. 🙂 It’s funny to travel to world and see how hipsters are breeding everywhere. Its quite a shock to come from DT Van (where I thought hipsters come to do basic training) and then fly for 14 hours to Bejing and stumble out of an airport bathroom (after trying to wash the Jetlag off my face) right into a crowd of Japanese and Korean Hipsters. Maybe they brought hipsterdom to Vancouver? Nice sweaters BTW, and love to read ur writing. 🙂

    • BUSTED! i AM cheap. sigh. so hipsters are global, eh? that’s hilarious. but honestly, i have not seen anything like Portland. They say Portland is where young people go to retire. I think it’s true. There’s just tons of young people everywhere, being very hip and not working… but where do they get the money to spend at Buffalo Exchange, i wonder? 🙂 hey, i miss you guys already. it was so good to connect with you when you were here. looking forward to more posts from you on your journey in the Philippines!

  3. :-) says:

    I love how the Goodwill helps make employment more accessible. I also love that you are cheap, because I have to be cheap and love your helpful ideas. You are cheap in a beautiful way…the conscientious way 🙂 .

  4. RRR says:

    Funny, I went to both of those places last time I was in Portland, too. I agree that BE was for hipsters, but I managed to dig out a vintage-inspired circle skirt. The goodwill was wonderful to shop in, but left me gasping at the prices. Still, I found a timeless italian merino wool sweater for around $25. Portland also has wonderful vintage stores!

    • I visited two other vintage stores – Magpie and Ray’s Ragtime – both of which has amazing vintage finds but it felt more like i was paying for antiques than for used items. If I’d wanted, say, a 1950s prom dress, Ray’s would have been the place to go. His stock was amazing. Magpie was so beautifully laid out and my hubby tried on a fantastic top hat – but at $85 we just couldn’t justify it, given that he rarely has opportunity to wear top hats! But yes, Portland has tons of great stuff just to look at!

  5. Lorie Key says:

    I’m SO with you! You are not cheap…you are thrifty and paying $30 for a USED skirt seems ridiculous! But…ya know…that’s your sistah thriftah talkin’… 🙂

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