Going to Buffalo Exchange is a lot like going on an adventure. You walk through the doors and there’s an immediate rush of excitement and feeling of endless opportunity. Will I sell all my clothes? Will I find that rare vintage purse I’ve been searching for? Will I find the finishing piece for my paint-the-town-red outfit? Other times, you find yourself with enough cash or store credit to buy a handful of items without spending a single cent, or you find they didn’t need what you brought and leave with your entire closet in tow. While there’s always something exciting at Buffalo Exchange, we’ve all had days where we leave the store feeling a tad confused about why they didn’t take our faux leather pants or basic tee. That’s why we spoke with Buffalo Exchange buyer Cassie Medved on everything you need to know about buying and selling at the famous place. Also, she shows us how Buffalo Exchange is so much more than just a store. Read on to hear about their community involvement, their unique culture, their crosswalk fashion show for Gay Pride, and of course, how to score big next time you venture through their doors.
303: Can you tell us what the buying process is like and how it works?
Medved: Buffalo Exchange is a buy, sell, trade so we buy all day, every day. Anytime we’re open, we have buyers here to sort through people’s stuff and buying outright means we’ll give cash or store credit on the spot for things we think we can re-sell. We are style based as opposed to label based, which allows us to take vintage, new items, funky things, handmade pieces and one of a kind pieces. The label is the last thing that we look at in order to price something, really what we look at first is to see if it’s a style we think we can sell.
303: What is the criteria for buying something?
Medved: If we think we got a customer for it, we’ll take it. We also buy based on the condition of the items, we don’t launder anything before we put it out so we require things to be in really excellent condition for resale. Another thing we buy as far as criteria is what our current inventory has as opposed to what it is we’re looking for, that can change season to season but we do tend to look at all seasons all year round.
“It would not look pretty on our racks if we took everything people brought into our stores.”
303: Buffalo Exchange has a diversity of buyers, how did you select your team?
Medved: I think every Buffalo Exchange, but ours in particular, wants to make sure we have diversity in styles on our racks and every walk of life can come in here and feel like they find something that speaks to them. So we hire buyers that correspond to that. We have buying as an art form and not a science. Every buyer who’s up there has lots of months of training, and they take that training and mix it in with what they’re seeing in the fashion world and what they’re seeing on the streets of Denver and on the streets of anywhere else in the world. We make sure we have a variety of people that are going through clothes on a daily basis so that our racks always have something new and exciting on them for any customer to walk in anytime and find a new style, or their price range, or their size. We want to make sure the diversity of buyers equals the diversity on our racks. That’s how our stores do so well.
303: What happens to clothes that don’t sell?
Medved: We have a way that we track the clothes we buy in our store, so anybody that shops here will see that there’s a month on our tag. We keep those items on our floor at that full-price for two months. It takes that long to maybe find that one particular person that’s going to fall in love or know how to wear this thing or that’s willing to pay that price for a high-end item. And if we still have something after that two-month mark then we mark it half-off and those are marked with a red circle stamp. We pull things that don’t sell after a month at half-off and send them to charity. Same with customers, if there’s stuff that we don’t accept from them and they’re just doing a major clean-out of their closet and don’t want to take it to a thrift store, we donate to three different local charities. We give to The Disabled American Vets, we give to The Stout Street Foundation, and we give to Red Apple Recycling. We also have an Annex location up on 13th and Sherman where our location originally was in Capitol Hill. They actually get all of our really good sales stuff that doesn’t sell at an even more discounted rate. So they’re maybe thought of as an outlet for Buffalo Exchange for our Boulder and Denver locations. So if you’re looking for a great deal, the Annex is the place to go.
303: Some believe that Buffalo Exchange buyers are too picky or biased. Can you speak on that?
Medved: Our location is pretty steady and on any given day we open and already have a line of people waiting to sell to us. Some days we’ll go through up to two hundred people’s items a day, that’s not 200 items, that’s 200 people bringing in bags of items. It would not look pretty on our racks if we took everything people brought into our stores. We’re a business and at the end of the day we want to make sure that the best items make it onto the rack. We also want to make sure that everybody’s finding something and that our racks have diversity of styles, brands, and sizes.
303: What would you say to people who believe Buffalo Exchange is priced too highly?
Medved: I would say this addresses a lot of misconceptions about Buffalo Exchange, because we are not a thrift store. Thrift stores get their clothes donated to them, but we have buyers who sort through them and we pay people up front the day that they sell in cash or credit. We are definitely very savvy when it comes to styles but we also know a huge range of product knowledge, so in order to give a fair price to the person that’s selling we also have to make sure it’s a fair price to the person who’s hopefully going to buy it from us. Sometimes people walk in with the mindset that we’re a thrift store because we sell used clothes but we do all the sorting as buyers for people, and we present the best stuff, in our opinion, on our racks. I do hear that a lot. We do carry some new stuff in our store that’s shipped from our corporate location. They’re super trendy things that are pretty affordable prices and have yellow tags on them. That would be maybe why some people think we’re overpriced but we’re not a thrift store, they’re not coming to us for free and we have to make sure everybody involved in the business transaction is happy, from the person selling to the future buyer of it.
303: Some people think of Buffalo Exchange as a consignment store but your brand does a lot more than that. Can you tell me more about what you do?
Medved: Buffalo Exchange is always part of the community it is set in. We’re a bagless company and participate in Tokens for Bags, we’re one of the first people in the Baker Neighborhood to go completely bagless. When people shop here and they don’t take a bag, we donate their bag to a charity of their choice. We have three charities that are constantly rotating, and we give a couple of hundred bucks to them every six months for people who are shopping and saving bags. We’re really green and like to recycle and save the planet. We also give a lot of money to local charities, raffles and schools. Our retail environment is not like every retail environment you walk into, we have fun music, great art pieces, our mannequins are full of life and we’re committed to not having the typical retail environment. Our gallery space is one thing our customers can come into, it’s open to the public all the time. And we generally have at least one, sometimes two exhibitions a month and people are open to explore new art, along with some of the art that’s on our racks. One of our last shows was for Robert Hawkins and that show was amazing and we sold every one of his pieces. It was a diverse group of people that came to look at it, including a lot of customers that just wandered in from the store, happy to see something they’d never seen before.
303: Can you tell me what ‘Gayer Pride’ is?
Medved: The majority of Pride celebrations happen downtown, so when we moved to Baker we decided to have our own party for gay pride. We call it Gayer Pride. We have an annual crosswalk walk-off that happens, this year it’s on Saturday the 18 at 3 p.m. and anyone who wants to walk can participate, be it drag queens, superstars, anyone who wants to dress up and have fun. It happens when the light goes green. Anybody who’s on the street can be a voter and scream and shout and we have a DJ on the sidewalk. People that are parked at that red light for that 30 seconds while a fashion show happens in front of them have no idea what’s happening and it’s amazing. It’s a huge success and it’s one of our favorite things that we do all year long. We do have a first, second, and third place prize for whoever is the fiercest and the prize is a surprise. If somebody kills, you know it because people are shouting and cars are honking their horns.
303: Are there any tips you’d give to people wanting to bring items in to sell?
Medved: Give a store a call and see what they’re buying, everybody who works here has up-to-speed knowledge on what our racks need and what our buyers are looking for. That can generally give you the best success if you’re looking for some cash or credit. I would also say make sure things are laundered and if there’s anything that has major damage, even if it’s the most amazing item there’s just some damage that wouldn’t do well for resale and you wouldn’t make any money off of it. If it’s got a broken zipper, or a one-of-a-kind button is missing, those things are kind of no-go for any resale place, including Buffalo Exchange. We definitely make exceptions for certain things, but not everything. We want to make sure quality is the number one thing our customers can trust. Lastly, stay with your buyer and talk to them during the buying process. All of our buyers love talking to people, sometimes it’s just to tell funny stories and make a new friend but we’re also interested in the items you’re letting go of. We understand some things are hard to part with and we’ll make sure it finds a happy home. I think it also makes you a better seller, you can ask as many questions, you have that one-on-one time with your buyer to ask “why are you passing on that?” Just know our buyers really appreciate having people be with us and we don’t anybody to walk away feeling like they were too afraid to ask or didn’t know what to ask.
Gayer Pride is happening this Saturday at 3 p.m. as part of Denver Pridefest’s activities. And if you ever feel like giving new life to clothes, cleaning out your closet, or simply desire to see some local artwork, stop into Buffalo Exchange to see the magic happen.
All photography by Kyle Cooper.