Buffalo Exchange

Buffalo Exchange

Photo: Buffalo Exchange

Neighborhood: Williamsburg
Type of Place: Second Hand

Fashion Week begins this weekend, taking over pockets of the city and
all of Bryant Park. If you're going to a Fashion Week event--or just
preparing for the influx of fashionistas roaming the streets--you're
probably facing that time-honored, often fearsome question: What am I
going to wear?

I am, as previous reviews have made clear, a big believer in vintage
and "gently used" clothes--more distinctive than the latest
see-them-all-over department store offerings and, if you're patient and lucky,
more affordable too. But that second point has been tricky in Manhattan of
late: Vintage has fully arrived as a great wardrobe option, and prices
have risen.

You might not think that Brooklyn's hipster-heavy Williamsburg
neighborhood would offer any cost relief along these lines; but its vintage
inventory can be surprisingly affordable. Along with small vintage
boutiques, some of which I'll review in future columns, it has two larger
used-clothing stores with significant stock. Beacon's Closet (88 N.
11th) has been around for years and is well known for its great and
less-great qualities. Terrific: Lots and lots of clothing, at generally
very reasonable prices. Not so: This has more of a harried department
store feel than a personal vibe. Oddly, I've also seen various online
complaints about the music played here. But I guess you're not a real
hipster unless you're criticizing another hipster's musical tastes.

More recently, Buffalo Exchange has arrived in the neighborhood as
another solid vintage option. (Like Beacon's, it also buys some clothing
that's brought in--so feel free to see if they need what you've got.)
Though it's a chain, and I usually avoid covering them, Buffalo has
qualities that made me declare an exception: a cheerful, homegrown spirit
and a dedication to involvement in local community.

The chain was started 32 years ago, in Tucson, and is still owned by
its founding family. Employees say that they feel encouraged to grow with
the company. Twice yearly dollar sales donate all proceeds to local
charities; (the most recent, held last month, which I cannot believe I
missed!) benefited the Brooklyn Children's Museum,

My favorite feature here is the "no bag" policy: If you decline to take
a bag, you receive instead a token for the bag's value (approximately
5 cents), which you drop into one of three "charity boxes" by the door.
When a charity's box is full, Buffalo Exchange will write that group
a check for the tokens' collective amount. The charities, which
change every 6 months, are all local and are chosen by shop employees. I
love this on so many levels! It cuts down on trash. It engages with the
community. It provides for worthy causes. Beautiful. Why isn't this a
required policy for every store, everywhere on earth?

And, OK... the clothes! Yesterday at Buffalo, I saw a cute Marc Jacobs
top, a pair of Michael Kors sandals, and a Chloe blouse, all very
reasonably priced, and any of which could get you through a Fashion Week
event with increased confidence. For a special guy in my life, I bought two
shirts--a nattily striped Penguin button-down in perfect condition and
a vintage Western shirt with great detail, also in terrific shape. The
prices were so good, I thought they must be mistakes, but apparently

Bottom line: Don't be afraid of vintage shopping in Williamsburg.
There are attitude-free options and some bargains to be found; and you
might end up helping a local charity on top of it all.

  - Pamel Grossman; 9/11/06

Buffalo Exchange
504 Driggs Ave.
New York, NY 11211