Ithaca Welcomes Another Second-Hand Shop
Higher-end current brands differentiate
store from others downtown

September 14, 2007
By Liz Sheldon

Let’s face it — on campus, fashion function usually dominates form. To excuse less-than-chic styles, many students say that there’s nowhere to shop in Ithaca. Tsk, tsk. A plethora of shopping options exist on the Commons, within walking distance of the Cornell campus.

True to Ithaca’s eco-friendly vibe, many stores take environmental responsibility to heart.A cluster of stores offering vintage and discount clothing are smattered throughout downtown Ithaca and offer shoppers a great chance for picking up some new-but-used, one-of-a-kind outfits.

The newest of these second-hand stores is Second Time Around, a Boston-based chain that opened just a few weeks ago on South Cayuga Street. The store deals in higher-end brands like Free People, Missoni and Chip and Pepper; they also carry new end-of-season items from boutiques and will sell clothes for customers on consignment — that means they will sell an item for a customer and then split the profits.

“One of the really cool things is that if we take your items on consignment, you can check the status of the item online and have the money deposited directly into your account,” said Jeff Wexler, regional manager for Second Time Around. “You can also create a wish list and be notified if we get in any of your favorite brands, or even if another one of our stores has it.”

The combination of fashion-savvy students, environmental awareness and stores with their own niche is what attracted Wexler to the area in the first place.

“The options for shopping in Ithaca are really changing. We send people to other stores if they come in to sell something that’s not right for us,” Wexler said. “Ithaca has this real sense of community and a sophistication that the college students inject — that’s what it’s all about.”

A few doors down from Second Time Around, Dominica Brockman ’90 is cultivating a more vintage vibe at Petrune, which carries a mix of ’70s and ’80s originals as well as collector’s items such as Victorian gowns. Hipsters, rejoice: Brockman earned her stripes with earlier stores in Brooklyn, the epicenter of vintage fashion.

“I look for things you couldn’t have bought in Ithaca in the last 20 years — genuine articles that were luxurious in their time and should be reused,” Brockman said. “These things are built to last, and if you take care of it you can sell it again, unlike that ten-dollar item that’s going in the trash.”

The environmentally friendly angle is especially important to Autumn Newell, an Ithaca native who opened Tuff Soul, located at 516 West State St., on Ithaca’s west side last spring.

The store focuses on sustainable style, which is a mix of vintage, gently-used and new clothing made with organic cotton.

“A large percentage of the world’s pesticide use comes from cotton farming, and there is definitely this move towards disposable clothing,” Newell said. “This is great because Ithaca is a really green place, and in such a small town you need to cultivate a unique look to stand out.”

While sustainable fashion usually conjures images of scratchy, shapeless sack-like clothes, shoppers don’t have to compromise looks for social and environmental consciousness. Unlike traditional vintage or thrift stores, this new generation of second-hand shops offers cultivated looks and constantly changing inventories in order to stay up-to-date on trends.

“The ’80s are really in right now,” Brockman said. “We have some great Bakelite jewelry, leather boots, and a Chanel bag in our fall collection.”

In order to offer the best looks, these stores have fairly strict standards on what types of clothes they will buy and sell for you. Luckily, Ithaca’s longtime second-hand store, Trader K’s, is still going strong and is less picky about only buying trends, making it a great place to get cash for some of your less high-end items. Trader K’s Owner Karen Sciarabba doesn’t seem to mind the recent growth in competition, either.

“We’re each in sort of a different class, there’s stuff available at different price levels and different styles,” she said of the Ithaca second-hand shop scene.

So the next time you find yourself wanting a new outfit that half of your lecture class isn’t already wearing, think eco-friendly and head downtown instead of hitting the mall.

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