ShopLight: Calico Trading Co.
A local, small town version of Buffalo Exchange— that is what Calico Trading Co. has set themselves up to be. The cliff notes version of their mission statement is to "be sustainable, reusable and to keep things from going in the landfill".
Started by two sisters, Jeannie and Susie, on eBay about 15 years ago (when Beanie Babies were the hot ticket item), Calico Trading Co. has now finally found a physical home in the home county that the two owners were raised. Born thrifters out of necessity, the sisters now pride themselves on not only finding a deal, but finding quality in (often vintage) clothing. Jeannie and Susie’s parents were raised during the Great Depression, thriftiness and upcycling was not a trendy thing to do, but the only thing they could do to survive. Flour sacks were transformed into calico dresses by their creative mother.
The store’s name is not only a nod to calico fabric/design, but to the floral business that their parents owned in both California and Idaho. The name “calico” is broken down to mean “CAL” ifornia-“I”daho-“CO”mpany.
Upon entering the store, a patron will breathe in the hip, south/western vibes. Although the sisters are business partners, Jeannie lives in SLO to run the store while Susie lives in Nashville-- which is where most of the inventory is sourced. While some sourcing will continue to take place in Nashville, most inventory is intended to come from community members looking to trade in some of their own classic items. Following the Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads business model, patrons can bring in gently used items to exchange for cash or store credit. Like Buffalo Exchange, Calico Trading Co. is not a consignment store--no log of customer items will be kept and customers will receive payment for their items up front. However, unlike Buffalo Exchange—who will not except any stained or torn items—customers are encouraged to bring in anything they think might sell.
The owners specialize in repair and creativity. A few noted items I was shown included a torn down vest (that would have otherwise been thrown away) that the owner discreetly sewed up, a denim jacket whose oddly specific air conditioning company logo was taken off and replaced with a modern stitched leaf design, and sturdy rain boots that were sealed with a specific camouflaged sealant tape. Old blankets, stained or otherwise, are also creatively transformed into something more likely to sell— trendy tote bags. Each tote bag is uniquely sized and one of a kind depending on how much fabric was usable from the blanket. All repurposed and repaired items have a tag and price point reflecting the work.
Customers can expect to only see quality brands and items in the store. The owners expressed specifically that they do not intend to have any “fillers” in the store. “Fillers” would include items from Forever 21, Old Navy, Target, etc. Only quality items will make the cut because only quality items are built to stand the test of time. This Tuesday, November 12th, marks the first community sourcing day. Customers are encouraged to stop by the store to browse and resell items needing a new home. In the near future, Calico Trading Co. will open their doors every day for shopping and roughly three times a week for community sourcing.
Some of the owners’ favorite brands include Levi’s, Patagonia, Lulu Lemon, and Northface. Be under no false impression that this is a secondhand activewear store, though. There are clothes for all ages and styles, but college students finally have a secondhand store they can call their own.
Calico’s average price point is also accessible for college students (and everyone)—$20 or less. While $20 for a quality name brand might seem like poor business management, the owners are hoping that, long term, the lower price point will make the most sense for what they are trying to accomplish with Calico. Calico Trading Co. aims to be self sufficient and community based--sourcing from the community and giving to the community.
An aptly placed suggestion bowl sits at cash-wrap waiting to be filled with brands and items you wish to see in the store!