BY DAWN FEDDERSEN-POINDEXTER
As an avid thrift store shopper, Michelle Dustin knows how to put together a great outfit at bargain prices. With her own ingenuity, she has turned that passion into a career.
She approached Arc’s Value Village, where she had worked as a student at Maple Grove High Senior School and in college, with an idea. She had heard of personal shoppers in high-end retail stores and wondered if the idea would work in a thrift store setting. They thought the concept was exciting.
"We don’t know of this being done anywhere else. In thrift stores in the Twin Cities or other Arc stores across the country," said Julie Anderson, an Arc’s Value Village Twin Cities Member.
Last August, Dustin began the program on a trial basis. She met clients on evenings and weekends while continuing to work her day job in writing and editing.
"There’s such an inherent value in thrifting," Dustin said. "It’s green, it’s a bargain. But people would say, ‘I can never find that great top or purse.’ They would get overwhelmed and leave and miss out on how many great things there are to find at Arc’s Value Village. It’s amazing the amount of quality things, name brands, stuff still with tags on it that I find."
Clients sign up online or in the store for a free 75-minute appointment with Dustin in any of Arc’s four Twin Cities locations. They fill out a questionnaire beforehand designed to tell Dustin what they’re looking for. They can indicate size, color preferences, business or casual, what they want their image to say about them, and more.
Dustin shops the store before an appointment and has outfits and accessories ready to match their wish list. Clients are under no obligation to buy anything.
"I’m finding lately that people are looking for items that are appropriate for work but translate into all aspects of their life," Dustin explained. "People are busy these days. They don’t have time to stop and change their clothes between one thing and the next."
She also has a lot of clients looking for new clothes because of changes in their body or age.
"Maybe they’ve just had a child. Or they’ve lost a lot of weight. I have a lot of clients in their early 30′s or 50′s. They don’t want to dress too young or too old. They want to find that balance," she said.
Appointments are available for one or two people. Dustin has many clients who come in with a spouse, child, friend, or sibling. Many of her clients are men.
"It’s the way a lot of men would want to shop. They show up, everything is in their size, they try it on, and then they’re done," she asserted.
The service has been so successful that the three-month trial turned into a nine-month one until recently when Arc Twin Cities created the full-time position of Personal Shopper & Thrift Stylist for Dustin, who finally got to quit her day job.
She has seen over one hundred clients, many of whom have returned for second and third appointments.
Dustin said, "This really was a passion for me. I was always told to follow your passion and you’ll never be disappointed."
To learn more about the personal shopper service at Arc’s Value Village of the Greater Twin Cities, visit arcsvaluevillage.org/personalshopper.