Photo by Becca Sabot
“My closet is a revolving door. I see great stuff and snatch it up, then I donate it back. I don’t even own that much.” On Raven: dress, coat, and boots all from Arc’s Value Village. Total cost: around $60.
Personal shopping service and thrift store are no longer contradictory terms, thanks to the ingenuity of avid thrifter Michelle Raven.
She pitched the idea of a free, Nordstrom-esque personal shopping service to Arc’s Value Village, where she had worked as a cashier in her teens. Arc’s, a nonprofit that uses proceeds from its stores to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, liked the idea. So did shoppers—Arc’s personal shopping clients typically spend six times more than the average customer.
Raven ditched her job in quality assurance, and went to work for Arc’s. Five years in, she’s built a popular program with a team of personal shoppers and clients at all five Arc’s stores.
“Thrifting is not a particularly user-friendly shopping experience,” Raven says. “It became clear to me that there was a real opportunity.”
Raven spends about two hours before each appointment combing the sales floor and assembling a rack of outfits and accessories.
“A lot of times, a personal shopping appointment coincides with a major life change—going back to work, newly single and starting to date,” Raven says. “And a lot of times they don’t have a ton of cash.”
Raven’s rule of thrifting is to think about the entire outfit. “It’s easy to find one great piece, but then you go home and don’t know what to do with it. If I find a skirt, jacket, top, and earrings, you know you have at least one way to wear it.”