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
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,”
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.