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Buffalo Exchange

By Victoria Bozek

Did you ever think that buying a pair of Seven jeans for less than $40 or a Dolce & Gabbana bag for $250 was possible? If you are a college student who loves to shop for this season’s latest trends but can’t afford to spend a fortune on a whole new wardrobe, then check out Buffalo Exchange. This consignment shop, located at 180 Harvard Avenue in Allston, is a quick and easy train ride away and a venue where you can purchase your favorite designer brands at affordable prices.

Buffalo Exchange was started in 1974 by Kerstin Block, who currently owns the company along with her daughter, Rebecca Block. Kerstin always had a “passion for fashion” and for finding the latest trends at the best prices. With this in mind, Kerstin opened the first Buffalo Exchange store in Tucson, Arizona. Since then, the company has pioneered as one of the first consignment shops in fashion history, a place where anyone can come in to buy, sell, or trade clothing or accessories.

The mission of the company is to promote sustainability in clothing and lifestyle by helping to reuse, reduce, and recycle. “We want to have a place for people to shop where they don’t feel uncomfortable. Any type of person can come in here and feel welcomed by our staff. They can find different styles for their needs and are given great customer service!” Maggie Windsor, the store owner at Buffalo Exchange in Allston, explains. Windsor first started working for the company in 2005, at its location in New Mexico. She also worked at the San Diego location and opened the store in Somerville, Massachusetts, in September 2009.

The company has a strong belief that all stores should be deeply involved with the community in which they operate. There are a number of programs and charities to which Buffalo Exchange has donated millions of dollars over the years, helping to save the environment and raising awareness around sustainability. Since 1994, the company has donated over $380,000 to local nonprofit agencies and has saved over 7.6 million plastic shopping bags. Buffalo Exchange allows any shopper who provides his or her own bag to accept a token promising the store will donate five cents to a charity of the shopper’s choice. Since 1997, the company has also raised over $310,000 for environmental causes through Dollar Day Sales on Earth Day.

Buffalo Exchange also supports charities such as Coats for Cubs. Until April 22, 2011, customers were encouraged to donate their furs to Coats for Cubs, which is a program of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that provides bedding and comfort for orphaned and injured wildlife. Since 2006, the company has collected over 5,256 used furs for this program.

Because the city of Boston is one of the top college destinations in the world, Buffalo Exchange knew that Allston would be the perfect location for a branch. The store opened in Allston on September 18, 2010, and since then the store has been attracting people from all over Beantown. “We see a lot of college students, considering it is a college town. Boston University and Boston College are right on the “B” line, which is the MBTA line we’re located on. We see a lot of shoppers who love thrift shops and are looking for trendy fashion items,” Windsor explains.

But how cheap is cheap, at Buffalo Exchange? With prices ranging from just $5 for a shirt from Forever 21 to $400 for a Louis Vuitton bag, any type of customer can shop at this consignment store. The Allston store has seen a number of brands come through its doors on clothing, handbags, shoes, jewelry, and many types of accessories. On any given day, customers can find items from retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, The Gap, Zara, Lucky, J.Crew, Club Monaco, H&M, and BCBG Max Azria. And if you happen to be at the store and find luxury designer brands like Alexander Wang, Marc Jacobs, Chanel, and Chloe, then you have really hit the jackpot.

Windsor and her employees have worked hard to find trendy, affordable fashion items for their customers. The company hires buyers who are knowledgeable about fabrics, styles, and current retail trends as well as fashion eras. They are asked to go on frequent shopping assignments that consist of shopping internet sites, stores on Newbury Street, and other popular shopping areas. “They need to know diverse stores from K-Mart to Wal-Mart, to Forever 21, to Nordstrom, even to Bloomingdale’s,” Windsor explains. In order for customers to get a great price on their shopping finds, familiarity with designers and brands at luxury or affordable prices is a must for Buffalo Exchange employees. A strong interest in recycling fashion is also important for these fashion followers.

Jen Bagley, a 2007 Suffolk University graduate student, is a buyer for the company. “My mom was a buyer for Filene’s and I thought it would be a really cool job. I would never work at another retail store, but this company is just so different. I love the control of the inventory I have and how I can give my opinion on what will be sold in the store,” Bagley explains. With handbags and purses as her current fashion obsession, Bagley can’t resist any Marc Jacobs or Kate Spade bag that enters the store. Her favorite item that she has bought at the shop is a pair SCARVES of Puma shoes. 

When customers bring in merchandise to sell to the stores, the buyers are extremely picky in deciding which items will make or break it on the sales floor. Items that are sold must be current in style, brand-new, unique, and fashionable. They should always be in mint condition and cannot have any stains, faded washes, or tears, because they will be sold again to customers. The company also aims to make the customers feel excited to enter the store doors by making them want to have fun. With vintage and retro items, customers can play dress-up right in the store. When customers sell their items they have the opportunity to receive either cash or store credit. So if you’re tight on paying off a bill this month and are in need of some quick cash, Buffalo Exchange may be your new best friend.

With nearly 70 percent of the store’s merchandise sold from customers, the other 30 percent is brand-new merchandise that customers can also purchase at low prices. If you are shopping around the store and notice a white tag, this means the item was sold by someone else. If the tag is blue, then the item is new merchandise. By bringing in new and old merchandise, the company allows everyone to shop comfortably at this consignment shop.

Today, the independent and privately owned company has a total of forty stores in fourteen states across America. In 2010, Kerstin was named one out of five ATHENA award finalists for her success as a businesswoman. The company has been cited for Best Resale/Vintage Clothing by the Tucson Weekly and by Reader’s Choice in 2009 and 2010. It has also been featured in HOW Magazine and ReadyMade Magazine for its retail success.

So if you are searching for a Burberry trench coat or a pair of pink Coach sneakers this season but aren’t interested in dishing out the cash on a luxury item, then this one-stop shop for all fashion finds is just right for you. Buffalo Exchange is a great place to find fashionable, trendy items at affordable prices while still raising awareness of sustainable efforts. 

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