Those of us who shop regularly at thrift stores often wonder what goes on behind the scenes, just beyond the double doors where employees busily process incoming donations. Short of working at one (Brown Elephant in currently hiring in Chicago, I’m kind of tempted!); the best alternative is knowing someone who works at a thrift, or better yet, owns one! Yes, thrift stores are typically non-profits run by charitable organizations so it seem unusual to know someone who actually opened one. My friend, Diana Durkes, however is launching the Lake Forest Resale shop this Saturday, April 23rd.
I met Diana a year and a half ago when she contacted me about doing an interview
for her Chicago Now blog, Garage Sale Warrior
. A multi-talented individual, Diana also writes the “Tossed & Found” column for Time Out Chicago
where she shows how to do over curbside furniture finds; has been a vendor at the past two Vintage Bazaar
flea markets and also writes about upcycling projects/thrift adventures on her personal blog Fine Diving
. Her latest venture is the Lake Forest Resale shop, which she graciously offered to let me preview this week.
Lake Forest is located near the shores of Lake Michigan, an hour train ride away from Chicago. It’s like a posher version of Star’s Hollow on Gilmore Girls, with a historic downtown square with upscale stores like J. Crew in Williams Sonoma residing in 1850s brick buildings. When I stepped off the Metra train it was like another world, a small town where everyone knew each other (hrm reminds me of my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas). This welcoming atmosphere greeted Diana during the rehabbing of her thrift store. Read a Q & A I did with her and view the pictures of the shop below. There will be a part 2 posted later this week showing 3 outfits I created out of clothing found in the shop.
[Above, two chairs upcycled by Diana. The chair on the right was upholstered with an old glittery white J. Crew sweater.]
Three days before opening, the store was a hive of activity. As I took photographs of the store, Diana’s two lovely daughters busily sorted, priced and merchandised items on the shelves. Several local volunteers swung by, including a graphic designer who worked with Diana to create custom signs for the shop. More donations rolled in and several Lake Forest old timers decided to amble in the door and peruse the store (despite the huge opening soon sign on the door) and they all remarked to Diana that her set up is a vast improvement over what had formerly been there. Until last December a hospital thrift store had inhabited the same space, when it closed Diana decided to revamp and relaunch as Lake Forest Resale. Proceeds from the store will benefit three local charities: Mothers Trust, Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association and Family Service. From the older timers’ comments I gathered that the old store had been cluttered and difficult to navigate. Diana brings her experience in the retail industry and artistic flair to the new shop and the concept seems to be more of a ‘thrift boutique’ akin to the well curated thrift stores I came across in NYC.
1) How does an individual go about opening a thrift store? What sort of career experience have you had to prepare for it?
I’m working with a partner who’s a saint in the paper work department. He started the process by incorporating our name, Lake Forest Resale Shop, and filing as a not for profit. In my background are jobs and experiences that conflate into my new role—retail, project management, event and meeting planning, blogger.
2)What was the old store like and what changes have you made for your own store?
I’ve given the store a fresh look from its beige tones to a color scheme of yellow, gray, white and black. My goal is to enhance the emphasis on recycling by adding in a message of upcycling, too.
3)How long have you been thrifting/vintage shopping? What do you collect?
It’s funny, but I grew up in a small town and don’t remember there being any thrift stores. However, as thrifting has gained urban popularity, I’ve dived right in. I like anything that catches my eye, but am most drawn to items that are made by hand, that show originality and that one-of-a-kind aesthetic. Along with this, shiny and colorful are good.
4)What are your favorite thrift stores in the Chicagoland area? Did you model your store or any of its practices on a favorite establishment?
I really don’t have a favorite, since anybody who thrifts in Chicago knows each store has attributes. One might be a great source for women’s clothes, while another is the place to go if you want to change out your dining room table.
5)How do you come up with prices for merchandise? Will there be any sales or specials?
Research, competitive pricing with online and storefronts, getting to know the market. Yes! Sale and specials to come.
6) As a new store how have you found donations? What ways have you been promoting the store?
The community has been fantastic in donating items. I can’t say enough in thanks for their support. I’ve worked with the local press, as well as having a presence on Facebook, to promote the store.
As you can tell from the photographs, this is not the typical thrift store– you won’t have to dig for treasures, they are well displayed and a tight editing process ensures that only the best makes it to the store’s floors. No dirty, tattered clothing here. There are designer labels like Lily Pulitzer, Ferragamo and Dooney & Burke. My favorite were the vintage and antique items, including a couture ’70s dress and little trinkets like the wooden box shown above.
Sections are neatly labelled for easy navigation, the children’s section was especially enticing for young families– a pink Barbie convertible car came in while I was there and a set of Raggedy Ann & Andy dolls also caught my eye.
While prices are higher than the Salvation Army or Unique, it is worth it for the pleasant browsing experience and high quality items. There are also bargains to be had, the miniature kittens below were priced at $3 for a set of six (I only photographed a few of them).
Yes, that is a set of vintage Pyrex bowls in the photo above, there were also loads of fun cookbooks, jell-o molds and a groovy 1970s fondue set.
Two skirts I fell in love with, unfortunately neither of them fit me. Please someone buy that strawberry skirt, imagine wearing it to picnics this summer!
My finds– a vintage Madeleine cookie tray, a bird-shaped garlic press (that’s what we guessed it was) and an antique tobacco tin. EDIT: the little bird is actually a lemon press, thank you goes to Wacky Tacky for pointing this out for me. I love my readers!
The store’s grand opening is THIS SATURDAY, April the 23rd. Regular store hours are Monday-Saturday 10AM to 4:30PM. The address is 653 N. Bank Lane in downtown Lake Forest. For more information or updates check out the Lake Forest Resale’s Facebook page