There’s a certain magic in visiting your favorite thrift store — the thrill of the hunt and the joy of discovery can become an obsession. For some, what started as a hobby becomes a career.
That’s what happened to Tandem Vintage owner Amanda Baumann, who quit her job to pursue her passion two years ago.
“I wasn’t prepared for a life of being on a computer, in a cube alone day after day,” she said. “I never looked back, and I’ve never been happier.”
Baumann gathers thrifted goods and sells them in her northeast Minneapolis shop at FindFurnish. Curating for those of us who don’t quite have her thrifting talent, she spends a lot of time among the racks. Baumann visits five to 10 thrift stores most days, fueled by large amounts of coffee, to find new pieces for her store.
“Thrifting for me is a treasure hunt. I love walking down the aisles, running my hands along the garments, looking for patterns, prints, textures and colors to catch my eye,” she said.
She keeps an eye out for practicality. “Everyone can wear vintage and feel good in it. I like to offer a wide array of wearable vintage, not costume-y vintage,” she said. “I like to make sure that what I am collecting represents what is current for the season. I work hard so that I have garments in all sizes, from extra extra small to super curvy.”
When Baumann isn’t out thrifting, she’s probably laundering or mending her finds, taking photos and posting them to Instagram, or planning pop-up events.
Claire de Lune is another thrifter who’s moved from hobbyist to pro. The Minneapolis singer runs Little Loon Vintage, an occasional pop-up shop and Instagram boutique of her thrifted pieces. She loves that vintage and thrifting are eco-friendly pursuits. “It doesn’t create a demand for new stuff,” she said. “It’s like recycling or repurposing.”
The eco-friendly bent works for closets and living rooms. Mustard Moon’s Jane Hall started thrifting to fill her first home when she was a new mom low on cash. Once she’d accomplished that, her thrifting hobby led her to her own booth at an antique mall and then a part in Chaska’s collective Shop 501. She estimates that about 70 percent of her store’s merchandise is thrifted.
When she shops, Hall’s first stop is the furniture section, where she’s drawn to pieces that are “charming, but have seen better days.” With a trained eye and a little love, she brings new life to these castaway goods.
Even “junkers” look to thrift stores to support their business. A Vintage Parcel’s Jenni Mueller and her husband, Ben, sell bits and pieces such as keys and handles to crafters, jewelers and Pinterest-inspired makers.
“We try to fuel the people who are making the projects,” she said. The pair pop up at shows such as the popular Junk Bonanza, but do most of their business on Etsy. Mueller spends the morning shipping packages and the rest of her day at thrift stores, estate sales and auctions. “I go to the tools, the ‘guy area’ where stuff is hanging — that’s our meat and potatoes of what we sell.”
With all the interest in shopping thrift, it’s becoming more competitive.
“Prices just continue to go up and up and up,” Baumann said.
Hall agreed. “It gets harder every time — you have to go more often and dig deeper.”
But for serious thrifters, it’s definitely not a trend. It’s a lifestyle. “Why we keep doing it is [because] we’ll go in [to a store] and all of a sudden, you’ll find that thing that makes your heart stop,” Hall said.
For Baumann, the magic lies in giving her thrifted goods a brand-new future outside the shop doors. “I get to imagine giving that piece new life, a new home, and a new owner to treasure it all over again.”
Kara Nesvig is a freelance writer and beauty blogger living in Minneapolis.