Town and Country

Bell-bottom Battle in Ballard?

AZ-owned Buffalo Exchange rolls into Ballard-owned Ballard

June 1, 2009

Word dropped last week that as of June 20, Ballard will have another vintage and recycled clothing shop in its mix. Joining 20Twenty and Sugarland Vintage is … (insert ominous drum roll please) … Buffalo Exchange.

It’s a little (possibly a lot) ridiculous to look upon a family-owned and operated 36-store national chain (of which two are franchised; ie: owned locally) that deals exclusively with recycled gear as a corporate jerkface, and this scenario isn’t the same as say, Walmart rolling up and squashing the life out of independently owned grocery markets and sweet spinster-run gift shops. And certainly, competition drives good business and Buffalo Exchange has a solid reputation for reducing waste and donating a portion of its proceeds to local charities, but, yet, and still, the conversations I keep having are about helping local businesses stay alive and thrive, and keeping local money in local bank accounts.

The new Ballard Buffalo Exchange will be between three and four times bigger than the existing, Seattle-owned resale shops. Will it edge them out—if not immediately, over the course of the next year or so?

I want to know what you think.

When you set out to cruise for perfectly beat-up cardigans, prime-condition kitten heels, and lovingly worn-in Levis, do you aim for neighborhoods that host a number of these kinds of shops? Do you shop that way in general? That is, do you like it when shops of a similar type are ganged up together?

Shop owners: Do you like like-minded neighbors? Do you feel they helps your business?

Are there benefits to shopping at larger, networked shops like Buffalo Exchange?

Do smaller, hipster-curated resale shops stock better gear?

Are there benefits to spending your money with folks who live down the street from you or went to school with your cousin?

How will Ballard and other north-of-the-city neighborhoods react to their newest resale-minded neighbor?

When is a chain store not a chain store?

[Image here is from the MTV series America’s Best Dance Crew; you just have to imagine them stopping at 20Twenty and Sugarland on their way through town.]

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