Wednesday, June 18, 2014

adventures in Brookings: the Country Peddler.

I’ve done enough of my cheap outfit blog posts for you to know that I love a great deal. While those great deals can be found in the clearance racks at the mall, my favorite inexpensive clothing finds come from thrift and consignment stores. Sure, you have to work a little harder to find that perfect shirt, but it’s all that more rewarding when you finally do find it. Plus, you never know what you’re going to find in a consignment store: the clothes there are from different seasons, different brands and stores, different sizes – and they change constantly. It’s way more exciting than going to the mall one week and seeing the same stuff three weeks later.

I’ve done a lot of thrift and consignment shopping in my day: from New Orleans to Canada, I’ve thrift shopped with the best of them. Over my years of consignment shopping, one store has always shone above the others: the Country Peddler.

The Country Peddler is located in downtown Brookings, and it’s been there for more than twenty years. I remember going there a few times with Mom when I was ten or eleven. I even remember my first Country Peddler purchases: a pair of navy blue clogs (because if you were in fifth grade in 1997/1998, you were nobody unless you owned two things: a Tamagotchi and a pair of clogs) and the softest red bathrobe there ever was.

I was a late bloomer when it came to fashion – I was wearing tapered jeans long after their expiration date, and I thought my Velcro shoes from Kmart were ironically cool. (They weren’t.) That being said, I didn’t start visiting Country Peddler on a regular basis until I was 16 or so. While I was by no means fashionable at that time, I was beginning to be a little more conscious of how far behind I was in terms of clothes.

Up to that point, my wardrobe consisted mainly of faded jeans and shirts emblazoned with various Muppets – with the occasional superhero footwear. (I once owned Batman, Spider-Man, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shoes… all at the same time.) I was under the impression that my clothes were quirky and fun, but it slowly started to dawn on me that my fashion sense may have crossed over from quirky to straight-up weird.

Of course, most of the clothing I owned fell into the “weird” category. My pink plaid bell bottom pants? They had to go. My glow-in-the-dark Batman shirt from the children’s department? No longer acceptable. (I wish I had figured out that it was not acceptable in the first place for me to buy clothing for myself from the children’s department.) My… ? Sayonara.

Replacing your wardrobe isn’t cheap, so I had to take baby steps. I couldn’t purge all of my clothes at once since I didn’t have the funds to replace that much stuff at one time. The most egregious clothing was the first to go (see: pink bell bottoms, et al). As a born and bred cheapskate, I needed an affordable way to switch out my bad wardrobe for something good.

Enter: Country Peddler. This was the first place I went to try and mix in a few quality clothing items with my abundance of crappy ones. Slowly but surely, I would get rid of a pile of old dorky clothes and bring home something decent from Country Peddler.

At the time, my brother and sister had Tae Kwon Do two nights a week in Brookings. I would drive them to Tae Kwon Do and would have an hour or so to kill before I needed to pick them up again. I would rotate through my favorite Brookings haunts: Grandma Lorraine’s house, the library, and Country Peddler. Country Peddler wasn’t as large as it is now, but it was always full of clothes for my perusal. I could easily spend my entire hour sifting through the racks, and I almost never walked away empty-handed.

While I didn’t buy my entire replacement wardrobe at Country Peddler, I would not have been able to get the job done without it. Country Peddler was my first step into the world of age-appropriate clothing, which – as it turned out – was not so bad after all.

Country Peddler became my go-to place for more than just your every-day clothing. Not one, but TWO of my prom dresses came from Country Peddler. The first was this purply ombré number that I wore to my junior prom, and the second was a deep red dress that I wore as my friend Bob’s date to his senior prom. 

Also pictured: robotic palm tree.
Both dresses I got at relatively short notice – for junior prom, I didn’t really decide that I was going to go until a few weeks beforehand, and the red dress was purchased on a quick weekend trip home from college after I was called to duty as Bob’s date. Country Peddler pulled through for me both times.

Once my wardrobe became respectable – and it took YEARS – I found myself turning to Country Peddler for something else: consignment. They would take my cast-off clothes, resell them, and I would get 50%. Just one more thing to make me love Country Peddler even more. I began bringing my clothes in by the trunkful. Even though I was going to college three hours away, I would hoard piles of consignment clothes and drag them along whenever I was home for the weekend. It was such a great feeling to stop in and find that you had some credit waiting for you on your consignment account. I’d like to say that I would take those consignment checks and put them right into savings, but you know that’s not true. I would always find a little something to take home with me, and THEN I would (maybe) put the rest of the check into savings. Or into my gas tank.

Country Peddler has undergone some changes over the years, but all for the better. They expanded several years ago, and now they have almost double the space that they did when I was in high school – and it looks great. When I was living in Minneapolis, Country Peddler got its own Facebook page. Every day, they would post pictures of some of the new clothing that was coming in their doors. It was so much fun to see the things they were getting, but also so disappointing because I knew that most of this stuff wouldn’t be there the next time I managed to get to Brookings. Even so, I’d do my best to stop in whenever I made the trip from Minneapolis – and even though most of the things I’d seen online had been sold long ago, there was always something new to catch my interest.

I took a little break from consigning when I lived in Denver, New Orleans, and Minneapolis, as it was a little tough to get clothes home from that far away. Besides, I spent a lot of my time in those three places being really poor, so if I had any clothes to get rid of, straight to Plato’s Closet they went. Plato’s Closet will give you cash on the spot for your clothes, and I was always in need of cash. The downside is that they give you a fraction of what they’ll sell the clothes for, but after all, they’re taking a bet that the clothes will sell at all, whereas with consignment, you get a higher percentage, but you have to wait for your clothing to sell. Plato’s Closet was good enough for the desperate times that I was facing, but now that I’m no longer subsisting on eggs and hot dogs for every meal, Country Peddler always gets first dibs.

And I can’t fully extol the virtues of Country Peddler without taking about the people. The owner of the store is named Shirelle, and I met her the very first day that I set foot in Country Peddler. No matter how long it had been since I’d last been in the store, whenever I came back to Country Peddler, Shirelle was always happy to see me and ready to hear about my latest adventure. She’s added more staff over the years, and anyone working is always happy that you’re there and – even better – will point you in the direction of the fun new arrivals.

Even though I now live in Luverne – about two hours away from Brookings – I save my clothes for Country Peddler. As luck would have it, the drive from Luverne to my parents’ house passes directly through Brookings, so it’s awfully convenient to stop there. I can’t even begin to count the amount of clothing I’ve taken there over the years, nor can I count the amount of clothing I’ve purchased from them. (On the upside, it’s been years since I’ve actually paid for anything – every time I find something to buy, there’s always enough in my account to cover it. It’s like free clothes.)

I’ve gotten a lot of great clothing from Country Peddler over the years, but I have to show you some of my favorites – and if you’ve read the cheap outfit blog posts, you’ve seen them before.
This shirt!
This dress!
This skirt!
This shirt!
This shirt!
This dress!

Even though I make it to Country Peddler about fairly often, I can never wait to go back. You never know what you’re going to find.

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