Campus thrift store proves a success

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The clock strikes five on a Friday afternoon and already there is a line through the three floors of Adirondack house. The door opens every few moments to let another anxious student in, grunge t-shirt in hand. Excited chatter travels down from floor to floor; faint sounds of coins jangling fill the air.

A new student-run thrift shop, known as the Trunk, made its debut on campus on Feb. 11. No need to trek to Neat Repeats anymore. Thanks to Janet Rodrigues ’12, Isabel Howard ’11.5, Amy Rapp ’11 and Corinne Beauguard ’11.5, Middlebury College now has its own collection of tradable treasures.Open on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Trunk is located in the third floor of the Adirondack house. It houses all kinds of goodies, from sequin dresses to eclectic wool sweaters.

“We want people to be able to come in and find stuff before they go out,” Howard said.

Not only are the prices low, but in the spirit of environmentalism, most of the items sold at the Trunk have been collected from Middlebury’s own recycling center.

Four friends spent the last few weeks of May 2010 trying to think of the perfect name for a thrift store. It was all just an idea until “the Trunk” came along. Then they knew they had to put this name into action.

The concept of a thrift shop had been ruminating for some time. Two years ago, Howard and Rodrigues took a course called Writing for Social Change. Howard’s final project for the class focused on a potential college thrift shop, but she never thought it would materialize into something real until there was a name; the Trunk fit just right.

The four girls entered fall semester with an action plan. They applied to all kinds of grants, met once a week to iron out the details, spoke to local thrift shops in town for advice and so made their dream into a reality. After receiving a grant from the Environmental Council as well as funds from Atwater and Brainard Commons, the Trunk gradually grew into something more than a name. The Center for Campus Activities and Leadership (CCAL) suggested the Adirondack attic as a starter space and the girls “fell in love.”

“It was more than we could’ve ever imagined,” said Rodrigues. “We were expecting a blank white room, but instead got this great little nook with character.”

The room is not the only thing with character — the clothing comes well equipped with it too. Gathered from the Recycling Center, the clothes and trinkets all have that special Middlebury flair — not only the eccentric bit, but also environmental chic.

“People have no idea how much is thrown out on this campus,” Howard said.

The Trunk provides a venue for people to dispose of their so-called junk in a more environmentally friendly way. As we all know, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. The trunk makes this mantra a reality.

“The issues of the environment are relevant to everyone but they’re not targeted,” said Rodriguea. “There is a large number of people on this campus that aren’t actively thinking about the environment, but can still be influential and the thrift store is the perfect outlet for them.”

The Trunk is still very much in the works. The founders would like to make the store a buy-trade-sell operation. They are currently trying out a barter system, hoping that people will bring items to trade for other things. The items that are not used in the barter system are all priced below five dollars and most can even be paid with change. The founders of The Trunk are also hoping people will choose to donate their things instead of throwing them away.

“The idea is to keep it really cheap because we’re not looking to make a profit,” said Howard.

Though the Trunk is still very new, there has already been talk of expansion. Within the first minutes of its opening, the room was packed and there was barely enough elbow room to squeeze past the racks of clothes. Ten minutes in and tensions were already rising over certain items; they were luckily resolved with a fair game of rock-paper-scissors. There has been talk of opening a second outdoor venue on the Proctor terrace when the weather gets warmer, and the Trunk will eventually move to a larger indoor space following ADK attic’s impending closure.

From the name to the clothes, the founders of the Trunk appear to have hit on success. The sheer number of people that showed up in the first few minutes shows that The Trunk will be around for a while.

“Everyone we talk to is excited,” said Howard. “People want to give us stuff. People want to buy stuff. We just hope everyone who wants to contribute can.”

For more on The Trunk and thrifting in general, see:

MiddBlog’s coverage

Goodwill’s Thrifting and Green Blog