BOULDER – The Boulder Buffalo Exchange is committed to constant evolution, and not only in the sense of following fashion trends.
Todd Colletti opened the resale clothing store in 1995, and since then has built his customer base, opened a Denver location, expanded the Boulder store, and adjusted to the green economy.
Colletti, who was an avid rock climber in the 1990s, moved to Boulder from Arizona to open a franchise of the Tucson, Ariz.-based chain. His partners, Victor Cortes and Kathy Plach, owned the first franchise in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the three combined their skills to open the Boulder store.
Colletti’s Boulder and Denver stores are two of only three franchises of a chain that has 33 other stores. The Flagstaff store has since closed, and the other franchise is in Phoenix.
His stores feature mostly used clothes, some vintage and some contemporary, which are handpicked by employees for style. The source of clothing is the customers -people bring in what they no longer need, and the stores offer 30 percent of the resale value in cash, or 50 percent in trade.
The Boulder location, at the corner of 17th and Walnut streets, expanded two months ago into the former 7-Eleven space that used to be next door.
“We took 500 square feet of the space, and the other space is occupied by a construction company. We remodeled the entire store, changed counters, repainted – we tried to gussy up the store and have a bit more elegance.”
One can see the change upon entering the store. It is roomier, with men’s clothes clearly demarcated on the left, and women’s on the right. Pairs of high heels sit in circles on top of clothing racks, each of which is devoted to something specific – tank tops, dresses, sweaters.
Colletti’s stores just began using reusable, biodegradable shopping bags, though the owner said the store always has been green because its product already has been used once.
“We have been a recycling company since 1974 – we give things a chance for a second life.”
In 1994, the company initiated the Tokens for Bags program, where customers who don’t take a shopping bag receive a wooden nickel they drop in a box for one of three local charities. At the end of each fiscal quarter, the totals are added up and checks are written to the charities.
“In Boulder, I would say 50 percent of the people don’t take bags,” Colletti said. “People on average buy three items, and that’s small enough so you don’t always need a bag.”
The program has generated more than $265,000 in donations companywide, and saved 5.3 million bags.
Buffalo Exchange faces real competition with other resale shops in Boulder, such as Crazy Amy’s, Rags to Riches and Goldmine Vintage.
“Other stores have opened up, and it’s forced us all to be better at what we do,” Colletti said. “But it’s surprising how many resale shops this town can support.”
The thing that makes Buffalo Exchange stand out from the competition, Colletti said, is its hiring philosophy. Colletti hires young people who have an innate sense of fashion and business, because many of them are expected to buy and price clothes for the store.
“We hire people who work all day long at the store, and later that night, you see them shopping at the mall – that’s the ideal.
“It creates a lot of entrepreneurs, because we practice full disclosure on all our financials, so every employee knows the numbers all the time. A lot of our employees have gone on to open up their own businesses. People realize, ‘Oh man, I can do this.'”
Colletti, who opened the store at the age of 26, encourages other young entrepreneurs to follow their dreams.
“Just do it,” he said. “Do it now, when you’re young. You have a lot more go power when you’re young. And we need more small business.”