A bus will bring more than 50 shoppers to Bradenton on Thursday, allowing them to experience some of the thrift scene in Manatee County, which store owners say is blooming.
The Mystery Resale Shopping Bus Tour, spearheaded by Patti Clark, will allow those who have purchased bus tour tickets to shop in several local stores. Thrifters will spend 45 minutes at each stop, which are kept secret until the bus leaves.
Clark said people interested in the bus tour have been asking for a day of shopping in Bradenton. This year, they were able to line up several stores to participate in the mystery shopping tour on Thursday.
Within the last year, Clark said, the thrifting scene in Bradenton has “exploded.” She said between new stores and others moving locations to expand their space, Bradenton has become a requested location to hunt for bargains.
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HOPE Chest Thrift Store, which is part of HOPE Family Services, sold $85,000 of merchandise in fiscal year 2010-11. In the 2017-18 fiscal year, the store sold $200,000 in merchandise, according to CEO Laurel Lynch. It also gave away more than $160,000 in goods to those in need of their organization’s services.
Michael Becerra, marketing director for Sunshine Thrift Store, which has a location in Bradenton at 3611 First St. E., said they have noticed an increase in sales and the number of customers in their store as recently as the last six months.
There’s “absolutely” something to the idea that the thrifting scene in Bradenton has grown, said Fred Prieto, owner of You Never Know Thrift Store, 5529 Manatee Ave. W. He pointed specifically to the last five to six years.
“At the market here in Bradenton, it’s becoming a way of life,” Prieto said.
“You have thrifters that go out on weekends and go from store to store, really just looking for that diamond in the rough so to speak, and they like going from store to store,” said Kimberly Wilson Dodson, president of Loving Hands Ministries Inc.
Loving Hands operates a thrift store at 719 Manatee Ave. E., and sales there benefit the ministries.
Wilson Dodson’s father founded Loving Hands Ministry more than 35 years ago, and when the thrift store opened, it was in the same place where St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift shop used to be, before it moved to a larger space.
St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift store outgrew its previous space, manager Linda Steeves said. She said business started to “bloom” in the last two to three years. Even since the move to 1111 Eighth Ave. W. in August, the store has seen a steady increase in business.
Many stores in the area like St. Vincent de Paul’s support causes within in the community. The store supports the efforts of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
The Loving Hands store supports the ministry’s 24-month Christ-centered residential discipleship training program for men with life-controlling problems such as addiction and HOPE Chest looks to promote safety, strength and well being for those affected by domestic violence in Manatee County.
“I think people like a good bargain and if you can shop, get a good bargain and help somebody, what’s not to love?” Lynch said.
“Everyone wants us to stop at their store knowing it creates awareness but also brings in money,” Clark said.
Prieto said the tour coming to the area means there is “something in our town.”
“Someone saw between the lines. There’s enough here we can bring tours and that’s wonderful,” Prieto said.
Even with several stores in the area, some owners and managers said there’s not a feel of competition.
“People who like to thrift love little clumps (of stores),” Steeves said, noting the stores even build off other stores’ customers. HOPE Chest Thrift Store is next door.
“Honestly, I think there’s just enough business to go around,” Wilson Dodson said.
Lynch agreed. She added, in their location, there’s also an area of lower income, so there is a need for reused items at a reasonable price.
But are customers and avid thrifters seeing a difference?
Rene Streit said she sees an expanding in the Bradenton thrift scene. She mostly shops at Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul’s, but has noticed “so much more.”
Streit said she often finds items still unused or never worn with the original store tags attached.
For Kiernan Fradette, thrift shopping is functional, saves money and provides a sense of adventure.
“It really is the adventure of your style, or a sense of it,” Fradette said.
Fradette, 78, particularly likes the St. Vincent de Paul’s store, where he looked through a rack of clothes this week. He said even as a frequent thrift shopper, it can be a problem finding size small items, but the clothes he finds at St. Vincent de Paul’s tend to be more fitted to his petite frame and in good condition.
He found that after the recession, thrift store prices went up, but so did the number of stores and the quality of the items inside.
A few years ago, Andrea Cinaglia shied away from thrift shopping.
Now, a friendly environment with good deals on nice items for those on a budget is how Cinaglia described local thrift stores, while holding an arm’s full of clothes inside Hope’s Chest Thrift Store.
She has not noticed a “booming” increase in the number of stores in the area; it’s stayed about the same, Cinaglia said.
Nonetheless, a bus full of shoppers will roll into town this week with stops at several stores.
Thursday’s mystery shopping bus tour of Bradenton is sold out. There are about 60 seats open on each bus tour.
The tour has several other dates and stops between Manatee County and its final tour in Fort Myers in May.
Those interested in future mystery thrift shopping trips can get more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling 816-352-0975 or going to the Happy Thrifter Shopper Facebook page.