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Invest little, reap much at Buffalo Exchange

I've been buffaloed Ñ in the nicest possible way.

Once I believed that 'guilt-free shopping' was some kind of pipe dream, like stumbling onto an unknown Prada outlet. I find I was wrong.

Located in the Hawthorne District at 1420 S.E. 37th Ave., Buffalo Exchange makes it possible to experience the euphoria that comes with getting great goods for next to nothing, all while editing the outdated and out-of-favor from your own closet.

Round racks hold carefully selected garments, neatly arranged according to category and gender. Shoes are displayed in racks along the walls, with new pairs occupying prized perches on the clothing racks. Accessories are presented as you enter the store and include hats, handbags, belts and new hosiery.

The busiest corner of the store is the 'buy counter,' where eagle-eyed buyers rapidly assess the incoming goods. Here items are accepted or rejected and assigned the prices they'll carry on the sales floor. Sellers can take back the rejects or leave them to be donated to charity.

If you're selling garments to the store, it's best to arrive early. There's usually a line of sellers, most schlepping Hefty bags full of castoffs. Once your goods are combed, you'll get cash or instant store credit Ñ a juicy change from those resale stores that make you wait months before paying up. It's up to you: Take 35 percent of the buyer's final tally in cash, or 50 percent of the sum in store credit. Before deciding, allow yourself time to peruse the racks. Chances are you'll find plenty of reasons to use the store credit.

As at any resale shop, some caveats apply. Don't get your boxers in a bunch over the price you're being offered for your goods, much less at the buyer's refusal of items because they're out of season or overly thrashed. Pocketing money for pizza and a beer is better than pocketing nothing. Remember, you're trying to get rid of the stuff. If you're that attached to something, keep it.

Don't expect to find one-of-a-kind items in a range of sizes. Buffalo Exchange is a resale store, not the Gap. The adventurous bargain hunter approaches resale shopping with an 'anything is possible' attitude. Perhaps you didn't expect to find that slinky, burnt-velvet designer dress, but for $25, you'll find somewhere to wear it. And that Iggy Pop tank? The perfect top for yoga.

Little things elevate Buffalo Exchange Ñ there are 21 of them in the United States, including one in Eugene Ñ above other resale retailers. My favorite feature is a rack labeled 'Manager's Picks,' a rotating assortment of the cream of the store's crop. On my last visit the rack held a pair of pristine Earl jeans, an apparently unworn DKNY sweater and a Donna Karan jacket, among other tasty picks.

At the moment, Buffalo Exchange is looking for warm-weather clothes and accessories, so throw open your closet doors and get to work. Current styles in good condition are most likely to be chosen, and the edgier the look, the better. As they say in focus groups, the store 'skews young.'

Contact Jill Spitznass at

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