Got $20 in your pocket? Spend it at a thrift shop

Published 9:30 am Monday, August 3, 2015

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips 3 B’s Thrift Shop in Hampton is gearing up for back-to-school time, which is one of the busier times for thrift shops in Carter County.

Star Photo/Bryce Phillips
3 B’s Thrift Shop in Hampton is gearing up for back-to-school time, which is one of the busier times for thrift shops in Carter County.

Thursday afternoon, Lisa Vatterott, stood behind the counter and looked over her well-organized store.

For the past year, Vatterott has owned and operated Lisa’s Thrift Boutique in downtown Elizabethton, and according to her, business is doing well, something she attributes to everyone’s want of a good deal.

“We all like things that are new to us,” Vatterott said. “You can get a lot of brand-named stuff for next to nothing.”

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Thrift shops and resale stores are a growing industry in the United States. According to the Association of Retail Professionals, resale is a $16 billion-a-year industry, and according to a report by America’s Research Group, roughly 18 percent of Americans will shop at a retail store in a given year. In the same year, only 11 percent of Americans will shop at a factory outlet mall.

In Hampton sits the 3 B’s Thrift Shop, a store that has been open for two years. On Thursday afternoon, store manager Mandy Gruhot, who has been at the store for a year, held the door for customer Donica Krebs, who had her hands full with recent thrift store finds.

Krebs, who frequents stores like 3 B’s, said she loves shopping at thrift stores because of their atmosphere and small-town vibe.

“They are a great way to support the local economy,” Krebs said. “I always seem to have a better shopping experience when I visit thrift shops.”

With thrifts shop items being made up of mostly used goods, there comes some misconceptions about the stores themselves. Some believe the stores are meant for people of the lower economic rungs only, which is something Gruhot said is entirely untrue.

“People from all walks of life come in here,” she said.

Another misconception about thrift shops is the idea that since a lot of the clothing is used, it isn’t clean. According to Vatterott, however, cleanliness of her merchandise is of the utmost importance. She said she spends hours steaming and keeping her items clean. Also, when she goes out to get new items for her store, she makes sure to get items that are in like-new condition.

“I handpick everything,” Vatterott said. “I spend a hundred hours at least out getting products for my store.”

Right down the road from 3 B’s in Hampton is the Country Merchant, a thrift shop that has been owed and operated by Patsy Ballard for 15 years. Outside the store is a line of baby equipment, which tends to be a hot item at many thrift shops. Ballard stands at her counter that overlooks rows of clothes as she explains why she thinks thrift shops are so popular.

“It is simply because of the prices,” she said. “Most places have name brand items, and you don’t have to pay full price. That is something that people love.”

With the start of August, marks back-to-school time, which is a busy season for most thrift shops, Ballard said.

“They have already started,” Ballard said. “They have already started by sweatshirts and jeans. And then next weekend is tax-free weekend.”

Tax-free weekend will start Friday and run through Aug. 9, and 3 B’s Thrift Shop, Lisa’s Thrift Boutique and Country Merchant all participate in the busy weekend.

“We are getting all of our children clothes out and ready to go,” Gruhot said.

Lastly, one of the biggest draws of a thrift store is the unknown. Like a pirate digging for treasure, one can never know what big item is buried deep in a clothing rack just waiting to be found.

“Everyone loves a treasure hunt,” Vatterott said.