Old clothes find new home with students

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

College student conversations often run in one of two directions: lack of cash and where the fun is.

For some students, thrift store shopping fits right into the college-student agenda, offering cheap finds and an adventurous dig through the racks.

Sophomore Maria Gruener said she enjoys thrift store shopping for those reasons.

“I am a poor college student,” she said. “It’s fun to just go and look through the stuff, and it’s usually cheap enough that if you find something you can get it.”

This low-cost form of shopping can even be a social event.

“Just take all your friends along,” Gruener said.

Yvonne Bowe, store manager of Easter Seals Second Edition, noticed the trend of students shopping together.

“They travel in packs,” she said. “It kind of gets some of my employees stirred up, but it’s good for our store, good for Easter Seals.”

Darla DeNoma, GoodWill manager, also said students travel in groups.

Hobo Days or any other event means the local second-hand shops are sure to be flooded.

“Anytime [the university has] an event we just get swamped,” DeNoma said.

For some, dress-up occasions merit a trip to a thrift store.

“The track team had this big ‘pimp and ho’ party where the guys dressed up like pimps and the girls like hos,” Bowe said. “I must have had 50 different people in here, mostly guys trying to dress like pimps.”

“My big joke with the guys was that the girls already had the clothes to look like hos,” she said, laughing.

Halloween also calls for thrift shopping.

“People are just coming in and looking for things they can improvise. They’re creating a costume instead of getting a store bought one. They’re being creative,” Bowe said.

Gruener is one of those creative shoppers. “I was planning on going trick-or-treating and I need a costume,” she said. “I’m just looking for various things to put together to make my own.”

Sophomore Jordyn Nolz is another fan of thrift shopping. Although she said she’s too poor to buy a costume this year?even from GoodWill?she enjoys shopping at thrift stores at other times.

“It’s cheaper and I get stuff that I like better, and lots of times it’s kind of broken in already,” she said.

Nolz said she likes finding unique shirts with neat sayings.

Picking her most prized thrift store buy is tough.

“I have a lot of [thrift store clothes]. Almost all of my clothes are from GoodWill,” Nolz said. “I got this red pair of pants that are just awesome. They’re like male cheerleader pants and they fit great,” she said.

Students not seeking the weird and unoriginal can still find what they are looking for at thrift stores.

“One of my friends found a nice pea coat one time,” Gruener said. “It was like two dollars and it was in good condition. She wears it all the time now.”

DeNoma said usually college students are searching for a look from an era gone by when they come to GoodWill.

“We have a vintage rack?your bell bottoms and flares, so [college students] buy a lot of that. We also have a rack with camouflage [that’s popular],” she said.

Bowe said the Easter Seals Second Edition shoppers fit into two categories: people looking for stuff to wear to parties and those looking for athletic clothes.

“They buy crazy checkered pants, and ugly suits. Vintage, that’s my big thing. Thanks to ‘That 70s Show’ everyone needs polyester,” she said.

On the sporty end, Bowe said students like sweatpants, sweatshirts and T-shirts.

Students can keep thrift store shopping in mind for more than clothes.

“In the beginning of the [school] year, it’s furniture and household stuff students want, and once they get settled in then they’re in here buying all my vintage clothing and stuff for costumes,” Bowe said.

DeNoma also sells more than just clothes. “Prairie Repertoire Theatre?they get all their props here,” she said.

Both DeNoma at GoodWill and Bowe at Easter Seals Second Edition said they love the business of the college students and are trying to attract the younger shoppers.

“We’re definitely [trying to cater to the college students],” DeNoma said. “We even put an ad this year into the Collegian.”

Bowe is of the same mindset. “The store is getting painted next week. We’re trying to add a little funk, make it a really cool place to shop. We have a lot of younger people that shop here but we can get more,” she said.

It’s not only the revenues the business owners like, however.

“I love it when the college kids come in. It adds new life to the store and to the building. They come in and it’s great?they’re usually pretty funny,” Bowe said.

DeNoma agrees.

“They’re always friendly, always have smiles on their faces, and they’re always surprised at what they find. You always hear ‘I’m coming back’ or ‘Look at here!’ It’s always nice to hear that kind of thing.”

If many students feel as Nolz and Gruener do, the students will certainly continue to shop thrift stores.

Gruener summed up the joys of thrift store shopping. “It’s fun, it’s cheap and you have a large variety of stuff?everything from pianos to old clothes to really old hair curlers,” she said.