If there was any doubt that there’s a tsunami of interest in resale clothing, the latest example is a new publication, The Happy Thrifter, whose beat covers just 100 miles of southwest Florida jam-packed with thrifting opportunities. The tabloid is so successful that 45 shops are on a waiting list for ads and its publisher, Patti Clark, already is planning a sister edition in other Florida cities.
Clark, who friends call “Dr. Thrift,” is perfectly positioned for her new publishing endeavor. It’s no exaggeration to say that re-commerce has dominated her life.
Peggy called Clark after picking up the weighty first issue of her 40-page tabloid that details consignment, thrift stores and resale shops from Bradenton to Naples, Florida.
Clark learned thrifting while accompanying her mom to garage sales, and began her working life creating special sections for a chain of newspapers. On weekends, she worked at a consignment store that she opened at age 23. She later started a business brokering used medical equipment overseas. Reselling on eBay also has been a constant in her life.
When she relocated to Sarasota 14 years ago from Kansas City, she realized she was now living in the promised land of pre-loved clothing and furniture. “The retirees here don’t want to go to the beach constantly – they want to go shopping,” Clark said.
From thrift stores to shabby chic emporiums to antique malls and consignment shops, the 100-mile area from Bradenton to Naples includes abundant opportunities to donate and shop, not to mention opportunities to take classes on clothing upcycling, or workshops on repurposing furniture and clothing.
Seeing the heavy traffic in thrift stores, Clark first launched Mystery Shopping bus tours. Shoppers pay $55 for a catered lunch and space on a luxury motor coach that visits six stores. The riders (Clark prefers the designation “resale queens”) wear “I’m a Happy Thrifter” wristbands that often give them an extra 50-70 percent off merchandise.
“The stores’ whole staff greets all 60 of us at the door, many times with cookies or wine,” she related. “We’ve had them put on a fashion show for us and put our name on their store marquees. It’s wild and so fun.”
Six bus tours are scheduled for this year. Clark also is exploring a new edition of The Happy Thrifter for the Tampa area, as well as assembling the next edition of the original tabloid for November, 2019.
Four pages of maps in the tabloid are helpful for identifying stores thrifters might miss, such as salvage shops and vintage dealers. When you’re an out-of-town visitor to Sarasota, as Peggy is for Orioles’ spring training, you feel terrible when you discover back North that you missed some of the best places that resort city has to offer.
We found the exceptional Designing Women Boutique, but how did we miss The Women’s Exchange, a non-profit supporting the arts in Sarasota? It sells rugs, furniture, housewares and jewelry in addition to clothes and shoes. It’s part of the county’s Green Business Partnership and has awarded more than $8 million in arts grants and scholarships in its 55-year-history.
We also were unaware of Canned Ham Vintage & Loyal Modern, a vintage boutique with midcentury modern furniture and Art Deco décor, in Sarasota. (Look for the 1962 silver Shasta trailer, with its canned ham ribbed metal appearance, outside.)
Armed with The Happy Thrifter, we will make such mistakes no longer. We are covered from Punta Gorda to Port Charlotte, Venice and all points in-between. Reading this publication, we learned about the missions behind many of the non-profits, which ones pick up and deliver, when sales and senior days are held, that there is a plus-size consignment shop in Bradenton and that a Naples kids resale boutique also rents baby gear.
Thank you, Ms. Thrift, for making our explorations more useful with this vital guide.
The Happy Thrifter, 5700 Seven Oaks Street – Suite 38, Sarasota, FL 34241