Midtown Sacramento’s The Firefly Exchange has always been one of the favorite go-to places for recycled and up-cycled clothing. Just check their Yelp reviews and you will know why customers come back again and again. I would think that aside from the fabulous clothes at wallet friendly prices, the real gem is its charming owner Danielle Vincent!
I decided to pay Danielle a visit and to learn more about her passion and how much she enjoys helping her customers at The Firefly Exchange.
Get to know more about Danielle below…
When did you open your shop and what made you dive into this?
I opened The Firefly Exchange in May of 2012. I opened T.F.E. in order to fund my philanthropic goals with the community outreach organization that I founded in 2011 called S&S (Shoes and Sandwiches). I refused to ask or accept money from the community, so I created a way to make it myself.
Opening a clothing store is what made sense. I love fashion and through the organization I had access to a large amount of donated clothing. It was perfect!
Originally when I opened the store, it was all donated clothing that specially sorted. Then, as time went on, I rotated all the donated clothing out and replaced it with clothing that was acquired through trade with the community. This keeps the quality up and makes The Firefly such a great recycled clothing store.
How has it evolved through the years?
Every day I look around and I think, “Wow, I cannot believe that the little ol’ Firefly has grown into THIS.” As I mentioned above, when I first opened, it was all donated, sorted donations, but donations none the less. It wasn’t an impressive collection of clothing to say the least.
We originally opened at 721 J Street and were there for about a month and half before I quickly realized that opening my store there was not going to work. So, I acted fast and found the spot at 1910 P Street where we spent a year and a half in about 700 square feet.
Then, next door opened up at 1914 and we moved right next door into about 2100 square feet. I make no exaggeration when I say that Firefly was opened with no money. I had enough to get into the lease and buy some hangers and racks. Beyond that, there was nothing.
From Day 1, The Firefly was dependent on itself to pay for itself. To watch it grow from a tiny little shop with donated clothing, bottom of the barrel IKEA racks and only 700 square feet into a store that has top of the line racks, an entirely new design, a fantastic selection of highly desired clothing AND tripled its space, I almost cannot believe it! It’s always been quaint and friendly, but now it’s really something impressive given it literally built itself from the ground up. It was either sink or swim and The Firefly swam and did a darn good job of it!
Describe your customer?
The Firefly’s customer is casual, but know how to put herself/himself together well. They know the value of shopping recycled and their good at it. I honestly feel that I have some of the best customers out there. It’s a rare occasion that I feel like it’s a struggle to communicate, help or just talk to them. They shop local and they shop small because they want to genuinely want to support and watch Firefly continue to grow.
What was the best consignment/up-cycled item (craziest, most drool worthy, etc) you had?
Oh my goodness! I don’t think I go more than 2 or 3 days without pulling an item out of a trade and trying to hide my excitement as I resist the urge to just put in on right then and there. I recently had a pair of mint condition, adorable blush pink UGGS traded. I immediately loved them, unfortunately they were a little too small for me, so I had to share them, haha.
It really is the best compliment when people bring great clothing in for trade. We don’t pay cash, so bringing top of the line clothing in that would easily sell for cash elsewhere is really a tribute to the quality items that are worth the trade inside Firefly.
Regret anything you consigned? Please share!
Haha, this question makes me laugh because this happens all the time! There’s always that one item on the rack that I wonder where my head was when I thought it was a good idea to take it in for trade.
Currently, it’s a black velvet, scratchy, glittery jacket thingy with shoulder pads. My motto is that if it makes me feel something extreme, whether it’s in a good direction or a bad, someone else will feel an extreme effect to it that is opposite of mine and buy that piece that made me question all fashion sense. Then, they’ll walk out of the dressing room and kill it in that piece. That’s how I know, strong emotions about fashion in either direction are always positive.
If you could give tips on what customers should look out for in your store, what would they be?
Definitely staple pieces. So many of my staple wardrobe pieces are from Firefly. This is also something I hear from most all of my frequent customers. There are pieces that just round out a wardrobe perfectly filling all the racks– those go-to pieces that really reflect who you are while still maintaining a level of comfort and style.
Where do you see your business 5 years from now?
First let me say that I am so excited for how much can be done in 5 years. The amount of growth and success that has come in two, makes me feel like I can do anything.
In 5 years, I see The Firefly with a second location. I would like to bring the Midtown feel of Firefly out to the suburban area. Perhaps Carmichael or Fair Oaks; maybe even the Arden area.
Within the next year alone, I intend to see Firefly’s revenue able to fully support a voucher-based, community clothing closet that I will open with my organization S&S. That’s definitely the top goal right now.
Do you support any charitable organization?
S&S 🙂 That’s why The Firefly is open, specifically for my organization. Beyond that, I try and do everything I can to give back to the community.
I recently started a program where I have a certain item at check out and when the item sells, the profit goes to a local organization that is doing good for our community. Right now I have lady bug earrings and for every pair that sells, The Gender Health Center gets a donation of $4. So far so good!
I hope to add different things like this to help support other organizations on a greater level and to give back as much as possible.
How do you handle comments about people refusing to buy anything except brand new?
This is something I come across rarely, thankfully. When asked whether it’s new or used clothing, I always rephrase my response and refer to the clothing as “recycled.” The term recycled has a more positive connotation.
I then tell them that it’s specially selected, cleaned and carefully reviewed before it hits the racks. Most of the time it gets the skeptic to take a look around. Other times, they literally bolt for the door like they’ll catch the plague or something.
I do have some customers where their first experience with recycled clothing was at The Firefly and they swear they’ll never try buying new first again. Those people know what’s up!
The main thing is that I don’t take offense to it, it’s not personal– it’s just that some people don’t see the value of recycled fashion. Furthermore, they don’t see how much it does for our environment.
What’s unique about your shop? What differentiates you from the rest?
Hands down, the environment. We have excellent customer service, seriously. We meticulously clean the racks and ensure the store is clean. It’s of the utmost importance that when people take the time to shop recycled– to sift through thousands of items to find their personal treasure, that we make it as easy as possible and as friendly as possible. They’ve taken the time to shop recycled first, we take the time to do everything we can to reward that with a positive experience. Not to mention, having someone choose to spend their money in my store deserves the highest level of respect and care.
Another differentiating factor can be found right on the racks. Other clothing exchanges only accept clothing in sizes 2-14 and S-XL. At Firefly, I accept clothing in all sizes. On the racks there are selections ranging from 00, XXS to 24, 4XL. It is absolutely important to me that shopping for recycled clothing is something anyone can do regardless of the size they wear. Our tagline is “Fashion for All” for a reason. Everyone deserves to shop and trade no matter what size they wear.
What does it take to be successful in this business?
Patience, organization, determination, willingness to change, resilience and some serious problem-solving skills.
The most important thing is to listen to what people say when they come into your business. Watch their body language and reactions to how things are organized and the items they are looking at. See how people move through the space. Then, use those observations to improve, re-arrange— figure it out to make the best experience for the most people.
Also, it’s not all about me. It’s all about the customer. I pay close attention to what people want and how they want it. Then, I give it to them. It requires patience because success does not happen over night and it definitely cannot be forced. It takes time. It takes change. It takes patience.
Resilience is HUGE. If you can’t get back up after being knocked down, you will lose it fast. You’ve gotta take the hit, stand up, look around, make the changes so it doesn’t happen again and them go full steam ahead. Then, you have to be willing to repeat that over and over again.
Success is something that comes in stages and that does not revolve around money. The first mistake is to put the level of success and achievement on the same scale as monetary gain and profit. They are not the same. They walk hand and hand at times, but they are not measured in the same way. Success is setting a goal and getting there. It’s saying, I want to change this thing and improve it and them doing just last. I’m not saying money is not something that shouldn’t be looked for, but it’s a result of many small successes chained together. It is not the ultimate success.
My Firefly Scores!
Here are a couple of photos of clothes I’ve purchased from The Firefly.
Support & Show The Love:
If you’re interested to know more about The Firefly Exchange and Danielle, make sure to connect with her at the links below. If you have questions for her or would love to send her some love and support, please leave a comment and we’ll make sure she gets them!
1914 P Street
MIdtown, Sacramento, California
*Logo photo courtesy of The Firefly Exchange Facebook page, all other photos c/o the author
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