Do Your Part, Shop Smart.
Written by: Abigail Preiszig
Six local second-hand stores to upgrade your wardrobe
17118 Detroit Ave., Lakewood
Fitting Rooms? Yes.
Online Shopping? Yes, for high-end items through Ebay.
Clothing for the people.
Husband and wife duo Bernadette and David Smith have been the owners of this sweet boutique for 11 years, but the store has been around since the 80s. Designer Consigner was originally known as Westgate Resale and sold “everything but the kitchen sink.” It was David’s favorite place, so when Bernadette heard from her sister, who was told by a stranger on a bus downtown, that it was up for sale, Bernadette jokingly told her husband to buy it, and he did!
“It's been the best thing,” said Bernadette. She loves seeing generations of shoppers come to their store and recall its past lives, meet those who move away and come back to visit, and give new customers a place to talk and feel good on a bad day.
“We try to recognize everybody we know on a first-name basis because it is a community store.”
This love of community and customer loyalty was apparent during the pandemic when customers left messages promising they would be back as soon as doors reopened, asking to shop one by one, and even donating money left in their accounts.
“It was heart-wrenching how much support,” Bernadette recalled.
Designer Consigner may sound like an intimidating name, but it is really for the everyday person.
They carry both men’s and women’s clothing and, although they don’t discriminate based on label, they typically sell brands such as Banana Republic, Loft, Gap and more. It is a great place to shop for business-casual items. Clothing is constantly on sale based on arrival, and after 75 days, the items given back to the seller or donated to a nonprofit called If Not For Love.
Ohio City: 2925 Detroit Ave., Cleveland
Cleveland Heights: 1798 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights
Fitting Room? Yes.
Online Shopping? Yes, through instagram.
@avalonexchangehingetown & @avaloncov
Your dream pinterest board.
Avalon Exchange has two Cleveland locations, one in Hingetown near Ohio City and another in Cleveland Heights. It is a family owned business that first began in 1988 as a vintage clothing store in Pittsburgh. They then expanded with locations in Georgia, Missouri, Florida and Ohio.
Avalon Exchange is the place to go to buy, sell and trade clothing, shoes and accessories. They “buy from the public, so selection is always a reflection” of their community. The criteria for their clothing is trendy, clean, in-season, in good condition and from brands that do well in Cleveland. They have a $1 sale that takes place over a weekend twice a year to usher in the new season. The next sale is projected for March.
The Ohio City storefront is the Pinterest board of your dreams. They have a small selection of handpicked, thrifted finds and many youthful name brands such as Zara and Urban Outfitters. Everything is fairly priced, with most clothing items ranging between $10–$20. The staff is friendly, well-dressed and has great taste in music. The racks and fitting rooms are clean and organized. This is a great place to find trendy thrift store items without searching for hours or feeling guilty about shopping fast fashion.
15220 Madison Ave., Lakewood
Fitting Rooms? Yes.
Online Shopping? Yes, through Instagram.
Unique, nostalgic, cool, rare.
Blaring rap music, a fun yellow carpet and a Britney Spears cardboard cutout meet the senses upon stepping into Highland Throwbacks, a well curated 80s and 90s vintage store. The perfect place to load up on vintage Cleveland sports gear, old T-shirts from local employers and theme parks such as Geauga Lake, classic Nike and Disney items, and anything nostalgic. This place is truly a relatable blast from the past for the college generation.
Owner Ben Hyle, a Kent native, opened his first vintage store in Akron and later expanded to the Cleveland area in November of 2018. According to an article by thedevilstrip.com, Ben wanted to create a spot where people can invest themselves in where they’re from. He forages for items at flea markets and thrift shops, but the store also buys, sells and trades in-store.
When asked what to bring here Johnny, an employee at Highland Throwbacks, said, “Anything cool.” If you’re looking for a deal, they have $5 bins and a $10 rack in the back of the store, everything else seems to retail for $20 or more — a fair price for such a thought-out selection.
2275 Professor Ave, Cleveland
Fitting rooms? Yes.
Online shopping? Yes, through Depop.
Fashionable, eclectic, expressive, fun.
“Cleveland is a great homebase for vintage. The market isn’t as heavily saturated like in LA or NY. So it feels very ‘new,’” says Sivan Eshel, owner of ReFried Vintage.
Sivan opened ReFried Vintage on Etsy back in 2013. The experience was very personal to her because she began buying vintage at a young age, going to estate sales with her mom.
“I just fell in love with it. When I was growing up I was very short and petite and a lot of vintage clothes would fit me better,” she recalled, “Now as I am older, I am more interested in the quality of clothing. Vintage wasn’t always mass produced.”
She and her husband have been traveling cross country the past 2 years, so she sources clothing while on the road. Sivan loves “the hunt” for vintage clothing, searching thrift shops throughout the country.
Her formula for new clothing is wearbility, what customers want, and what speaks to her. ReFried Vintage’s customers range in age and gender, catering to both men and women, while also carrying gender fluid selections. Sivan works to make her store accessible to different budgets by pricing her items fairly based on the market and the era, quality and condition of the item. She has sale racks at the end of the summer and winter seasons, and currently gives you 10% off when you bring your own bag!
Flower Child Vintage
11508 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland
Fitting rooms? Yes.
Online Shopping? Yes, through Facebook.
Blood, sweat, and tears.
This retro vintage store is a labyrinth of clothing, decor, furniture and knick-knacks. Upon entry, a beautiful showroom of furniture tempts you to sit back and groove with the oldies music. Further back, you’ll find a few racks of clothing, then a room of clothing, then steps that take you to the basement where you will find rooms and rooms of clothing, as well as a small record shop! Even with so much stuff, the store is well organized and easy to maneuver.
Owner Joe Valenti opened the store in 1999, and it specializes in items from the 1930s to the 1980s. Ten vendors currently occupy the store, but it is also a buy, sell and trade.
Vendor and employee Rita, says “It looks like fun and games, but it’s a lot of work. Blood, sweat and tears.”
7105 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
Fitting rooms? No.
Online shopping? Occasionally post items on Facebook.
A slice of life.
Upon entering, you feel as though you are transported to another world. Sweet Lorain is filled floor-to-ceiling with cases, shelves, and racks of vintage items organized by decade. They have been named one of America’s five best vintage stores by Detail Magazine and are celebrating their 29th year.
Owner Redwin Lewis has been in charge for the past eleven years and finds their items by traveling and visiting homes, regular sellers and vendors.
“Anyone can have fun here,” said Wendy, an employee at Sweet Lorain, “During the pandemic, people came in because these were things that made them think of a happier moment...You get to see so much history, a slice of life.”
A lot of collectors visit their store, but TikTok has recently been the cause of stir among younger shoppers.