Tivoli Shop Thrift 2 Fight Sells Secondhand Clothes for Social Change | Beauty & Fashion | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Tivoli Shop Thrift 2 Fight Sells Secondhand Clothes for Social Change 

Last Updated: 02/08/2022 2:03 pm
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When widescale protests against police brutality broke out in the summer of 2020, the idea for Thrift 2 Fight was born out of a conversation between friends in the Hudson Valley. What followed was a series of pop-up clothing sales to raise money for social justice organizations, which coalesced into a model for supporting grassroots social change through the ethos of thrift, with a brand-new brick-and-mortar thrift store in Tivoli, NY.

“We wanted to support people on the ground in different ways,” says cofounder Masha Zabara, a Belarusian expat and Bard dropout. “All of us had difficulties getting to the protests for one reason or another. And none of us had a lot of spare money in the bank. But we thought, ‘We have to do some kind of a sale.’ So we went into our closets, got a bunch of stuff, threw it on my porch, and priced it very low.” A bake sale, but make it fashion.

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On a rainy day in June, Zabara and friends Sarah Goldberg and Anna Siftar expected three or four people to show up for the sale they had decided to call “Thrift 2 Fight Fascism.” But dozens stopped by to browse the garments on porch in the center of Tivoli, and in an afternoon they raised $680 for protestors and Black organizers in New York City. “Every single person that came to buy clothes was like, ‘OK, so when are you doing this next?’” recalls Zabara. So they contacted a church in Red Hook and held the next sale on their lawn. The following one was at a grocery store parking lot in Woodstock.

“Everyone who came to our sales had expressed to us that it was very important to feel like they were contributing to some sort of a change, intertwined with their lack of desire for new clothes or disappointment in Goodwill and Salvation Army,” says Jillian Reed, who cofounded Thrift 2 Fight, along with Zabara and Collin Lewis, and oversees partnerships and communication. “They wanted a fun way to get clothing without feeling bad about it. And not just buying another piece of disposable stuff.”

click to enlarge The team at a pop-up Thrift 2 Fight sale in Brooklyn.
  • The team at a pop-up Thrift 2 Fight sale in Brooklyn.

The team grew to include a slew of friends and neighbors Collin Lewis, Jillian Reed. Collectively, the crew ran 15 more pop-up sales all around the Hudson Valley, raising over $15,000 for organizations and activists all over the country at the intersection of racial justice, queer liberation, and disability rights. By the end of the summer, the idea for a brick-and-mortar thrift shop was gestating in team's minds as they schemed to take the likes of Goodwill out of business.

By fall, the core Thrift 2 Fight organizers, Zabara, Reed, and Lewis were auditing a course in Bard’s MBA in Sustainability program, taught by entrepreneur Alejandro Crawford. “We took it as an exercise to find out whether we could ever start a business and understand what would be involved, and it turned into thinking through a really, really complex business plan with pitch decks and an entire financial mockup,” Zabara says. Three years of work in a semester, they estimate.

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At the end of the course, the team participated in a pitch competition, and Reed, as a Bard student at the time, applied for a Davis Project for Peace grant on behalf of the team. “We had the chance to figure out and predict any setbacks. We were ready to start looking for investors,” says Zabara, who now oversees development and strategy. “That’s where we came up with the idea of not just one store, but potentially a chain of Thrift 2 Fight stores.”

Thrift 2 Fight won the Davis grant for a fundraising tour, enabling the team, with the addition of Gordon Davis, to take its show on the road in 2021, popping up in nine cities throughout New York including Albany, Syracuse, Ithaca, Buffalo, White Plains, New York City, and Kingston. “We rented a truck. We took all the clothing people had donated to us and we did a fundraising tour,” Zabara says.

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Amplify & Fund

The genius of Thrift 2 Fight is that it doesn’t seek to swoop in and offer a solution, but rather to supply the people and organizations on the ground who are already doing the work with more resources to bolster their efforts. “We raised money for their local community fridges and organizations,” Reed says of the tour. “We weren’t just just raising money for them, but showing them a model to use their community power in that way, where they can harness that money they have in the community and use it as a funding mechanism for groups that might not have access to big grants that have a lot of red tape around them, or groups that aren’t incorporated or else are too radical for an organization like the Ford Foundation.”

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Thrift 2 Fight has embraced the chapter model and is constantly looking for new ways to collaborate and expand the movement’s reach. Anyone interested in hosting a sale is invited to get in touch through the website. They are discussing pop-up sales and shops with folks in Rochester and Boulder, Colorado.

And this spring, Thrift 2 Fight is partnering with the Fashion department at Buffalo State College to put on a fashion show and a pop-up sale. “That will be grounds for us to see if a Thrift 2 Fight store would be viable and needed in that community,” Zabara says. “The last thing we want to do is pick a spot on a map and not have those connections and not have that understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

Tivoli Thrift Store

Back on the home front, things are going well at the flagship Thrift 2 Fight shop in Tivoli, which opened in mid-January. “I’m surprised people are leaving their house and shopping, in this town where most other retail shops are closed, and even restaurants are closed,” says Reed. “People are really coming out. We’ve been selling so many jackets, so many hats, pajamas, and sweaters, which is just funny, very much a reflection of the weather.”

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The 1,600-square-foot storefront has big street facing windows for lots of natural light, wood floors, and creamy white walls. The store’s ample inventory is almost entirely made up of clothing donations from individuals with some pieces also coming from partnerships with local consignment, vintage, and thrift shops that have an excess of inventory.

“It’s so complicated to be a consumer,” says Reed, who is a lifelong thrifter herself. “Once you’re aware of the climate emergency that we’re in, the human rights abuses all along the supply chain in clothing manufacturing, and the huge environmental impacts including microplastics in polyester clothes, reusing clothing is the most affordable, accessible, no-brainer way of choosing what we put on our bodies.”

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The store is split up by garment type and themed collections rather than gender, with items ranging from designer labels to $5 picks to high-end vintage. There are thermals and shoes, sweaters and pants, shorts, scarves, and accessories. Thrift 2 Fight also recently launched its lending library of social justice books, with donations from local bookstore Oblong Books.

While Zabara and Reed run the shop, their third co-founder Collin Lewis handles behind-the-scenes business logistics and online work from California. The three founders are hoping to open an adjacent space in the building in the coming months for events. They are considering the January launch of Thrift 2 Fight’s storefront a soft opening and planning on a grand opening, COVID permitting, later this spring with music, food, drinks, and a fashion show.

Since launching in 2020, Thrift 2 Fight has hosted over 40 sales and raised close to $43,000. At the Tivoli thrift shop, 10 percent of every sale in-store goes toward local activist groups, while sales from the online shop go to grassroots initiatives around the country. For items sold as part of “rack residencies” at other shops, 25 percent is donated. “We calculated how much we were able to donate immediately,” Zabara says. The goal is to increase this by five percent each year and reach 25 percent donations in four years or so.

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“It’s a challenging time to figure out how to be a part of a movement for equity and justice with so much guilt tripping and blame to go around,” Zabara says. “What was important to us from the beginning was to support the activists who have been doing this work for a long time. Groups comprised by people living in the communities they serve, people from the Black and Indigenous communities. We are not reinventing activism. We are hoping to fund and amplify the voices of people that should be supported. And we hope that mindset can spread around to other communities to propel the activists that are trying to make this country better.”

Thrift 2 Fight’s Tivoli storefront is open Thursday through Monday, 11am to 6pm.

Location Details Thrift 2 Fight
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