Steamboat Springs If a silver lining exists in the dark cloud stalking the U.S. economy, it might be the success of thrift and consignment shops.
The upward trend in business is evident in Steamboat Springs stores, owners and management said.
"I've seen on MSNBC and CNN them talking about second-hand stores and consignment stores doing well," said Annie Tisch, who owns Annie's Home Consignments. "And it's totally true."
Tisch runs the furniture shop on Anglers Drive with her husband, Chris. Annie's has been open about a year and a half. Each month this year has been better than the corresponding month in 2007, she said.
"It just gets busier and busier all the time," Annie Tisch said. "I do believe in this economy, in this town with so many high-end shops, people are just trying to get bargains."
It's not just the buyers who are getting deals, she said. People are aiming to simplify their lives and in doing so are emptying storage units, Tisch said. Many of those items arrive in her store. She typically donates items that don't sell after two months.
Cristin Frey, who wandered through Annie's on Wednesday afternoon, said she bought almost all of her apartment furniture at the shop. She also sells furniture through Annie's.
"It's a good way to trade because you feel so guilty throwing a chair in the dump," Frey said. "And you don't want to have a whole garage sale just because you hate your chair."
Steamboat residents lost one bargain-hunting spot, the Local Exchange, this summer. Owner Karen Rhoads said in July that she was closing and eventually moving, partly because of the expense of living and working in Steamboat.
Rhoads' move and the economy have boosted business for the Twice as Nice Shoppe on Lincoln Avenue at 13th Street. The thrift shop, run by Yolanda and Mike Tait, opened about eight months ago.
"People are shopping because the economy is as bad as it is," Yolanda Tait said. "People are being thrifty."
Tait takes donations and does consignment, but not for clothing. She said her consignment business has increased.
"We have a lady from Craig who's bringing a lot of jewelry," Tait said. "She lives with her mom and is trying to make ends meet by selling jewelry."
Tait said she also gives away items. Sometimes college students or foreign workers who have moved to Steamboat from warmer areas arrive without winter clothes. If they can't afford the items, Tait doesn't charge.
"You've got to give back," Tait said. "You just have to."
At Rummagers, a downtown thrift shop, the customer flow is usual for this time of year, manager Candice Hurst said. Jackets and Halloween costumes move quickly, she said. The store also is getting in new furniture including bed sets, couches and recliners, Hurst said.
Back at Annie's, Tisch said she sometimes comes across items that are worth more than originally thought, and she passes those to auction houses.
For example, Tisch has a wood chair with a simple floral design on its slats. She initially priced it at $75 but noticed a sticker labeled "NMWPA." Tisch found that the chair was made through New Mexico's branch of the Works Progress Administration, a 1930s New Deal program to aid workers after the Great Depression.
It's worth about $600, she said.
Tisch, who also handles estate sales and sells items on eBay, pointed out added benefits of thrift and consignment shopping.
Customers are "saving on gas," she said. "They don't have to drive to Denver, don't have to pay shipping. And people are trying to go green. You're buying : an old piece of furniture; you're not cutting down new wood."
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