Kerstin Block founded the first Buffalo Exchange in Tucson, Ariz., in 1974. The chain now is 33 stores strong. She displayed her first clothes on a rack made from a discarded bicycle tire, a move that set the stage for the funky shopping environments found in the current stores.
'I think it started as kind of a means to control Kerstin's shopping addiction by turning everything around and reselling it," says New Orleans Buffalo Exchange Manager Denise Lyons, who has been with the company for 10 years.
Lyons worked at various Buffalo Exchange locations before settling at the New Orleans store, which opened in May 2005. She says the company's concept " buying and selling used clothing " is carried out somewhat differently here than in other cities.
'In terms of the fashion in New Orleans, we're able to get away with a bit more," she says. 'There's more of a party scene. I've been with stores in other cities that are a bit more conservative in their style, and some of the stuff we move quickly here would never go in those cities."
In addition to its mission of providing customers with affordable clothing, Buffalo Exchange also is dedicated to community service. The company created a Tokens for Bags program to support local charities.
'When somebody makes a purchase and chooses not to take a bag, we give them a token worth five cents," Lyons says. 'Then, they can donate the token to one of the charities we sponsor."
Companywide, the Tokens for Bags program has generated more than $265,000 since its inception in 1994.
From now until Earth Day, April 22, Buffalo Exchange is collecting used furs for its Coats for Cubs campaign, which benefits the Humane Society of the United States. Under the program, the furs are used as bedding for orphaned and injured wildlife.