Second Annual: “Creative Confidence; Steps for Success”

Creative_Confidence_2013-300x175Thrift Store Fashion Show!

We are excited to present the Second Annual “Creative Confidence; Steps for Success” fashion show. We have modified the format this year so that more of our friends can join in the fun! Staying true to our original vision, we will be presenting a “Thrift Store Fashion Show,” however this year we are inviting everyone to join in a relaxed cock-tail hour.

face 1We are so excited that for the second year we are privileged to have Barb Tobias, “Thrift Talk Diva” will be our Mistress of Ceremonies for this exciting fashion show, which will showcase business ensembles created solely from local “Thrift Stores” inventory.


Creating confidence to apply for that new job, ask for a raise, or to confidently perform current duties can be affected by something as simple as knowing how to “Dress for Success.” However for many the cost of purchasing new business attire is just not in the budget and for most it is over-whelming to just figure out “how” to dress.

The Creative Confidence; Steps for Success event is a fun way to demonstrate how all of us can shop thrifty and still present ourselves as business professionals.

“Make-Over” Participants:

Each year three deserving adults are chosen to receive a “Make-Over.” These participants are chosen from applications submitted by themselves and their sponsors. They may be participants in the DPF GED Grant program, the DPF Mentor Program, or they may be receiving or have graduated from other self-improvement programs offered by various organizations. The criterion is that they are actively pursuing education or business opportunities to better their quality of life.

The participants receive:

A Thrift Store shopping experience to find a perfect business ensemble
Make-up consult and gifts to take home
Professional hair make-over, depending on their personal needs and desires


Ticket price is $20.00 (Advance Sales Only)

Included in the cost of admission are heavy hors d’oeuvres, beverages (alcohol/non-alcohol), and the exciting fashion show.

Event date: September 27, 2013

Networking: 6:00 – 6:45

Fashion Show: 6:45 – 8:30

MAC Event Center
3295 W. 72nd Ave
Westminster, CO

Click to visit the Dan Peak Foundation for more information.

Denver Post Past Columns

Barb Tobias is a fabulous columnist for The Denver Post. Check in monthly for a link to Barb’s Column, called…Thrift Talk Diva.

How to purge – and price – your garage-sale items – June 2013

How to price garage-sale items is the biggest challenge for most novice merchants. The key in determining pricing is to fairly assess the quality and condition of resale merchandise. PURGE. Start collecting your merchandise to sell by cleaning out attics, basements and closets. Pull out everything that hasn’t been used in the past year. (Chances are they won’t be used next year either.) Click to read more.

The Art of Garage Sale Bargaining – April 2013

People repeatedly ask where I shop to find such fabulous finds. The answer is … everywhere. Smart shopping is not whether you can find extraordinary things at local garage sales; rather it is a question of how and when you buy. Click to read more.

forsalePenny-Pinching Potpurri: Thrifty Tips – February 2013

With the economy still sluggishly creeping along, more and more smart shoppers are making frugal decisions that meet their budgets. Here are 11 thrifty tactics.

Shop thrift. The resale industry is booming, and for a good reason. People are dressing in frugal chic and decorating their homes with secondhand finds. Over the years, upgrading, as your budget will allow, can allow you to amass many cherished treasures. Hunt around for gently used or unique items at estate and garage sales, auctions and thrift stores. Each venue offers a distinctive adventure and you just might find that the “hunt” is an exciting quest versus the banality of purchasing new. Additionally, there is the environmentally responsible aspect of rescuing or repurposing used treasures. The thrill of the hunt and the art of recognizing a good deal come with time, but the rewards can be great. Click to read more.

Repurpose, Recycle, Paint, Purge: A Home Mini-Makeover for 2013 – January 2013

While 2013 is still fresh, it’s a good time to look around the house and see what needs doing. Homeowners can spiff up their dwellings while watching their budgets. Making better financial decisions while keeping an eye on our buying habits allows us to produce less waste and a live a richer life. Click to read more.

The Happy Marriage of Thrifting and Recycling – December 2012

Thrift stores and recycling go hand-in-hand. But consumers are often unaware that they can recycle a lot more than paper, glass and plastic. Here are three lesser-known recycling agencies that work alongside the thrift store industry. Click to read more.

These Thrift Shops Champion Community Outreach – October 2012

The community programs that benefit from most thrift stores may not be foremost in the minds of bargain-hunting shoppers.

Like many people, my early motivation to try “thrifting” was purely for the thrill of the hunt and the joy of snatching up fabulous items for a fraction of their original retail price. Click to read more.

DSC01243Lessons From a Three-Stop Thrift Crawl – September 2012

Fifty women gathered in the parking lot of the ARC Thrift Store in Green Mountain in August for my first hosted Thrift Crawl.

I’d like to say that philanthropy and the desire to recycle and go green spawned this idea. But it actually came to me last year after my HOA complained, ad nauseam, about the cars and merriment surrounding my annual garage sale. Click to read more.

A Vendors Take on the Mile High Flea Market – August 2012

HENDERSON — Enthralled by the grandeur of Mile High Flea Market, I took the four-day challenge.

As a shopper and as a vendor, I visited this sprawling bazaar, farmers market and antiques fair northeast of Denver on a consecutive Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Click to read more.

diva saleIf You’re Selling Toys, Say So … and Other Garage Sale Success Tips – July 2012

A hot marketing campaign can mean the difference between a busy, lucrative yard sale or garage sale and an exhausting event that reaps scant profits.

Granted, many elements go into holding a successful garage sale: the purge, the sorting and the set-up, to name a few. But the pre-sale chore that many people pay too little attention to is effective promotion. Click to read more.

3 Entrepreneurs Make an Art out of Collecting, Recycling and Plant Sales – June 2012

Selling secondhand or recycled items isn’t a novel idea. But here are three Denver entrepreneurs who have added a new twist to the resale game. Click to read more.

forsaleThrift-Store and Garage-Sale Tips Prepare You for Big Finds – May 2012

Years ago, I thrift shopped with complete abandon. Little thought was given to equipment, packing material or how I would get my new-to-me treasures home.

Today, as yard sale, garage sale and outdoor market season ramps up, I plan, and I turn my vehicle into a well-stocked “thrift-mobile.” Click to read more.

Denver Secondhand Store Molly’s Closet Know Its Pluses – April 2012

Thanks to that annoying midlife weight gain, shopping can become a wearisome proposition for women with widening girths. Most second hand shops cater to younger, slighter women. Sure, I was that svelte gal once. As a fashion model walking the American runways in my 20’s, I weighted 127 pounds and stood 5 feet 10 inches tall. I kept that shape until my mid-40’s, when I hit the proverbial hormonal roller coaster, and a size 16. Click to read more.

Barb's Photos 1561Best Spots to Hunt for Seconhand Treasures – March 2012

Most of us have less cash to burn these days, so buying other folks’ castoffs is a great way to save a few bucks.

The Internet, specialty shops, bookstores and going-out-of-business sales carry drastically reduced items that are especially good for occasional needs or events. Here are some of my go-to bargain hunting sites and stops. Click to read more.

As the economy spiraled downward and Americans tightened their belts, secondhand shops made a move onto Main Street.

Thrift shopping tends to increase during hard economic times, according to a recent Brigham Young University study. So it follows that secondhand shops are now among the fastest-growing outlets in the retail world, according to the Association of Resale Professionals. That trade group says the number of thrift stores has grown 7 percent a year over the past two years, with sales climbing 12 percent a year. Click to read more.

Prime Time The SecondAct Blog

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Prime Time The SecondAct Blog

10 Commandments of Frugal Chic

By Michelle V. Rafter||February 22, 2011

bTobias.jpgBarbara Tobias worked as a fashion model in Detroit in the 1970s and 80s, but the single mother didn’t always make enough to support herself and a young son.

Out of necessity, she started frequenting garage sales for clothes and household items, using her fashion insider’s eye to spot treasures in other people’s cast-offs. She became a garage sale circuit regular and, in the process, developed a reputation as a thrift store diva.

Over the years, Tobias’ financial circumstances improved and she went on to run a series of small businesses and work in corporate America. But her passion for thrift store fashion and second-hand home décor didn’t waver. By holding yearly or twice-yearly garage sales — she calls them “diva sales” — of second-hand goods she doesn’t want or need anymore, she says she dresses herself and outfits her home essentially for free.

Tobias, who is 64 and now lives in Evergreen, Colo., regularly shares her frugalista ways in talks to women’s groups and at consignment stores and in her side job as an interior decorator and private wardrobe consultant. She also imparts tips on the thrifting lifestyle on a radio show called Thrift Talk Diva and a book, Tossed & Found: Where Frugal is Chic. Her latest endeavor, a radio show called Trash Talk, begins on the Blog Talk Radio network in April.

In an interview with SecondAct, Tobias offers 10 commandments for cultivating frugal chic.

1. Thrifting is a process, not an event.

Bargain hunting is a lifestyle. “It’s something you do all the time; it’s always evolving, it’s very fluid,” Tobias says. “If you’re a rigid shopper, it might not be for you.”

2. You don’t have to be cheap to be thrifty.

Thrifting isn’t limited to garage sales. There are deals to be had at all price points — including very expensive items — and you just have to know where to find them. In addition to estate, tag and garage sales, Tobias coaches shoppers to frequent consignment stores, flea markets, auctions, demolition yards and rebuilding supply stores. The unifying thread is “finding pieces that are really wonderful,” she says.

3. Bargain hunting takes time.

Devote the hours you would have spent stopping at retail stores to thrifting. But don’t expect to spot that special something you might be looking for in a weekend or even a month. If you’re devoted to finding the perfect black sofa for your family room, for example, you need to be patient and flexible. Flexibility comes into play in case you see something other than what you originally intended to buy “and might have to redo your room to [accommodate] that fabulous piece, which is the fun of it,” Tobias says.

4. Buy only what you really love.

Like isn’t good enough, she says. If you only buy what you adore, you’ll spend less and avoid ending up with clothes in your closet that you never wear.

5. Accept that you will make mistakes.

Even if you think you love something, you might get it home and discover it’s not the right size, shape, color or fit. That’s okay. You can always sell it on eBay or Craigslist, or set it aside for your own garage or tag sale.

6. Be prepared.

You won’t be able to haul away that perfect sofa or the upright piano if you don’t have the right vehicle and equipment to take it home. Regular thrifters drive cars that can hold their furniture finds and always carry supplies such as pads, blankets, carpet remnants, bungee cords, ropes, rags, plastic bags, a toolbox and sanitizing wipes.

7. If you’re the creative type, make it work for you.

Not everyone can see an old cabinet in a consignment shop and visualize how beautiful it would look with a little wood stain or a fresh coat of paint. If you’re one of those people, use it to your advantage. That also means having the supplies you need to turn your finds into treasures, including tarnish remover, furniture oils, glue remover, paint sticks, artists’ brushes, felt squares, Velcro and cotton swabs.

8. Purge yearly.

Once a year, Tobias goes through every room, closest and drawer in her house to collect clothes, furniture and other items she doesn’t use or want. Then she turns her garage into a boutique for sales that generally net between $4,000 and $6,000. Disposing of stuff that’s just taking up space makes more room for new finds that you really want, she says.

9. In clothes, aim for fashionable, not trendy.

As a former model, Tobias understands the difference between being trendy — jeggings anyone? — and dressing fashionably in basic items that never go out of style. When thrifting, aim for the latter. When she speaks to women’s groups, Tobias makes a point of wearing outfits that cost under $25 for everything, including shoes and accessories. “Do I have things that are more than that? Of course. But I wear it to make the point that you can be fashionable for a little too,” she says.

10. Go bargain hunting when you’re on the road.

When she traveled for business and her colleagues went out for drinks, Tobias hit the local consignment shops. “I couldn’t buy furniture, but I could buy jewelry or hostess gifts or whatever else I could fit into my suitcase,” she says.

Letter From a Fan

Hi Barb,

I checked out your book on Amazon and it has a 5 star rating … Congratulations! I loved reading Tossed & Found; I’ve shared it with so many people. I’ve sent my friends to your website and signed up for your newsletter too. You are on fire!!!

Years ago I switched to thrift shopping and we have basically built our Leadville house with thrift finds (habitat for humanity building store, The RE store, etc.) and I’m now on my way to furnishing it … with thrift finds. It’s such a blast! Buying secondhand is smart and provides a sense of community. Think of the accomplishment when we change our buying habits to be 100% conscious of giving back, reducing, reusing and recycling on all levels.

Also, after your speaking engagement on 1/29/2011, I started buying thrift items that were on sale! It makes so much more sense to shop this way. My husband is so proud of me and my effortless ways to save so much money.

I was at the Financially Fit Females meeting Thursday night and your name came up when the group was asked to share saving success stories… more that once a woman said “Barb Tobias would be so proud that I got this blouse for $.99” or “…pants for $2.99.” The crowd when crazy with applause!

~ Tammy Gordon

Exciting Radio Guest

Jo Kitto is Barb’s Fabulous guest this week on the Trash Talk Show! Learn more about Jo here…


Barb Tobias Hits the Monday Airwaves!

Barb Tobias inspires and engages women across the country with an extraordinary guest each week on the Women’s Radio Network. She delves into deep issues and shares heart warming tales. Tune in every Monday at 7pm MST. Barb is a Former Runway Model, Denver Post Columnist, Professional Speaker and Thrift Talk Diva.

Click here to view details about her show.

Guest Blog – from Elle Lothlorien – Bestselling Author

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When Authors “Get It Wrong”: How Reader Feedback Led To an Alternate Ending Version of my novel SLEEPING BEAUTY


Obviously, it’s very difficult to discuss changing the ending of a novel without actually disclosing what the ending is. If you hate spoilers, please stop reading now!

Have you ever really liked a novel, but been really, really unhappy with the ending? Before the internet came along, if you didn’t like a book’s outcome, it was basically a situation of “here’s the world’s tiniest violin playing the world’s saddest song.” The mere idea of changing a novel after publication was as unlikely as suggesting that someone fix that irritating smirk on The Mona Lisa.

These days, fans are “talking back,” whether through fan fiction (à la 50 Shades of Grey), or by simply interacting with authors on a more personal and immediate level on sites like Facebook and GoodReads. When I published my second rom-com Sleeping Beauty in September of 2011, I noticed right away that fans were talking back on the review pages—a lot.

Sleeping Beauty is “Memonto” meets “While You Were Sleeping.” It’s about a woman (Claire Beau) who has a sleep disorder called Klein-Levin Syndrome (aka “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”). She “awakens” after seven weeks to find that she’s supposedly in the middle of a whirlwind love affair with a man she despises (Brendan Charmant), over the strenuous objections of her best friend (Davin Wibbens).

Although the novel has received mostly 4 and 5-star reviews on Amazon, fans seem to fall pretty solidly into “Team Brendan” and “Team Davin” camps. A typical “Team Davin” review on Amazon reads like this:

Did not like characters.

Okay, my title of this review is a little bit of a lie. I LOVED Davin. I had to force myself to finish it. And even then I only did because I was hoping she would end up with Davin.

And here is a typical “Team Brendan” review”

More depth than I expected

I was touched at how much Brendan obviously loved Claire: he was willing to start over again, at Square One, because the relationship they’d already developed was worth it.

And someone who decided not to take sides:

A Pleasant Surprise!

Brendan, West, and Davin provide interesting situations throughout the story. I laughed, cried, and debated outcomes with myself as I was reading. 

In April 2012, I listened to my readers and published a standalone, “alternate ending” version of Sleeping Beauty called Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up, in which Claire ends up with “the other guy” (i.e. Davin  Wibbens). However, Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up isn’t simply a different outcome tacked on to the ending of the novel. In Chapter 11 of Sleeping Beauty, the main character, Claire Beau, trips on a cable on a movie set. In Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up, she does not trip on the cable. Based on this one moment in time, events naturally cascade to a different conclusion. Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up contains about 50 pages of new material, and is approximately 10 pages longer than the original.

And here’s the thing: Those fans who were unhappy with the original ending? They were right! Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up is the book I should have written the first time around, the one I would have written if I’d had more courage and trusted my characters to do the right thing.

Which one should you read? Well, if you like your rom-coms in the form of a tall, sexy, silent-doctor type, then Sleeping Beauty is for you. If blonde, tanned, hot surfers who curse a blue streak are more your style, then I’d recommend Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up. The best part? You can read both (and about 25-30% of readers do).

Put away your tiny violins, kids, because now you can have it both ways!

***Both Sleeping Beauty and Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up are available for the Kindle on Amazon, and will be available on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the i-Store beginning the week of September 10th. You can read more about Elle’s other novels by going to Happy reading!***

3 Entrepreneurs Make an Art out of Collecting, Recycling and Plant Sales

Selling secondhand or recycled items isn’t a novel idea. But here are three Denver entrepreneurs who have added a new twist to the resale game.

The Pine Needle Creek Barn Sale

Years ago, Sonia Nolta, then a FedEx driver, noticed all of the garage sales that peppered her routes. Then she began thrifting, and realized that she had an eye for collecting and a talent for restoring and decorating cast-offs. It wasn’t long before Sonia’s home was transformed into a showplace, and her hobby turned serious.

To accommodate this growing passion, her husband, Don Nolta, built a barn on their mountain property in Pine. His intentions were to have a workshop on the ground level, while Sonia used the upstairs for her projects. That dream was short-lived as carting heavy furniture up the stairs proved impossible.

The barn quickly became Sonia’s domain.

Equipped with the skills and ideal setting to start a business, Sonia increased her stock, became adept at painting furniture, and developed an eye for spotting trendy, vintage, retro and antique pieces.

Seven years ago, she opened a stall in one of Denver’s seasonal street markets and began selling her finds to the public. The venture was so successful that today she and Don set up shop at up to three “shows” a month.

Her business took another turn when Sonia realized that she still had numerous items to store after the street-market season ended. She decided to turn “The Barn” into a posh boutique for the Christmas season. She sent e-mails to friends and fans announcing the first Pine Needle Creek Barn Sale. Word spread quickly and she was surprised to find that people drove miles to attend her events. That winter sale became so popular that two years ago, Sonia began holding a spring barn sale that has proven to be more popular than her holiday event.

Look for Sonia Nolta this summer at the Paris Street Markets at Aspen Grove in Littleton and 29th Street in Boulder, and the Sweet William Market in the Stapleton neighborhood. To contact this seller, send e-mail to

BottleHood Colorado

Justin and Melissa Livingston started BottleHood Colorado to sell their recycled glassware at various street markets around the state. Their company turns bottles, collected from neighborhood restaurants and bars, into unusual household products, keeping a glut of glass from entering landfills while making a useful and fetching conversation piece.

As I wandered among this distinctive inventory at the Sweet William Street Market, I couldn’t help but wonder about the royalty issues, since the Livingstons are upcycling branded glassware. As it turns out, the Livingstons say their business has been embraced by a number of bottle companies who endorse reusing discarded glass. The throwaways are considered public domain.

Plus, Justin Livington quips, “There’s no better publicity than people walking around with repurposed Coors or Grey Goose (bottle) glasses.”

The Livingstons work from their home and a storage unit turned studio. They consider that work — upcycling discarded raw materials — to be an emerging art form. They learn through trial and error, and they’re rife with ideas. Wind chimes, candlesticks and herb trays are projects still on the drawing board.

Polishing the cut glass to get smooth beveled edges is the most time-consuming part of the process, but it is also what makes their items so marketable. Currently they sell tall and short beverage glasses, juice glasses, vases, lamps, jewelry (made from bottle necks), and platters and serving trays hewn from whiskey crates and wine barrels.

Every weekend the two join forces with Justin’s brother, Tanner Livingston, divvy up their time, and display the glassware at three different street markets. Their displays are rustic and recycled, their prices friendly. A pair of giant tumblers is $40, a set of cocktail glasses is $30, and two juice glasses go for $20.

Look for BottleHood Colorado products at the Boulder Farmers Market, Sweet William Market, and Sunday on the Streets at the Streets of Southglenn. For a complete list of events, visit the company’s website. Or, to contact BottleHood Colorado directly: 303-648-5567 or justin@

The Gypsy Farm Bus

The Gypsy Farm Bus is the brainchild of Katherine Cornwell, a former Denver city planner who describes her traveling garden as a “micro farmers market.” Unique to city streets, this refurbished school bus offers communities an array of heirloom, organic and local plants.

Coming from a long line of southern Indiana farmers, Cornwell says the challenging economy will prompt a return to the earth; communities where people feed their families with fresh produce from urban plantings suggestive of the victory gardens.

She is encouraged by the recent passage of the Cottage Foods Act, which allows mom-and-pop organizations to sell homemade foodstuffs. With the support of friends, a grant from Food Denver and a micro grant from C.A.F.E., Cornwell raised $25,000 to design, build and market her traveling bus and its stock of healthy plants in urban communities.

She is intent on reconnecting people with homemade/homegrown products… skills Cornwell says “we, as a society, are quickly losing.”

To contact this vendor, send an e-mail to

Barb Tobias is a Colorado blogger, speaker, author and online radio show host. Her book, “Tossed & Found: Where Frugal is Chic” (Diva Press), chronicles her journey from farm girl to fashion model to thrift-store fashionista. Read more at

Thrift-store and garage-sale tips prepare you for big finds

Years ago, I thrift shopped with complete abandon. Little thought was given to equipment, packing material or how I would get my new-to-me treasures home.

Today, as yard sale, garage sale  and outdoor market season ramps up, I plan, and I turn my vehicle into a well-stocked  “thrift-mobile.”

The Bustling Thrift Scene … from Dicey to Divine

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“Thrift Talk” Diva

From farm girl, to fashion model, to frugal fashionista, Barb Tobias’ “tell-all” book, Tossed & Found, chronicles her journey into the thrift world, launching her “Frugal is Chic” speaking tour.

The Bustling Thrift Scene … from Dicey to Divine

As the economy spiraled downward, Americans tightened their belts and secondhand shops made their move onto Main Street. Spencer James, lead writer of the Brigham Young University Study, states that thrift shopping increases when the economy slows, and that middle class families are shopping at thrift stores with the same regularity as lower income families. The study goes on to suggest that while high-income shoppers scour the secondhand market for antiques and unique finds, the average family is just trying to make their dollars stretch.

According to NARTS, National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, resale continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the retail world, boasting over 30,000 thrift, resale and consignment shops. According to a NARTS spokesperson, the number of thrift stores has grown by 7% per year over the past two years with sales climbing 12% a year.

Thirty years ago, when I first dabbled in the thrift game, it wasn’t chic. I would duck around a corner if I spotted someone I knew as I viewed the endeavor to be quite seedy. But, times have changed.  And, we who love thrift have watched the nation embrace the resale movement.

So, put on your shopping shoes and check out these trendy, cheap venues that range from dicey to the divine.

  • The garage sale season kicks into high gear with the approach of spring. On any given weekend, garish signs point shoppers toward scores of promising moving sales, subdivision sales, or regional favorites; garage sales, tag sales and yard sales.  Although plowing through piles of castoffs might be a lot of work, amazing bargains await those that have mastered the art of finding treasures in the piles of household rejects.

Competition is keen in the early hours of a sale when the professionals arrive to compete for the top finds. So take an hour or two to use an Internet mapping system to lay out a strategic plan. is my favorite online locator that pinpoints sales within cities nationwide, complete with addresses and descriptions of merchandise offered.

Adventurers should be prepared for muggy days, restricted hours and haphazard organization. But with a bit of preparation, GPSs and water bottles in hand, those who arrive early are most likely to grab the best deals.

  • Flea Markets range from seriously squelchy to trendy. A bounty of wares, from corroded kitchen items to new eveningwear can be found strewn across tables and stacked in layers at these unpredictably exciting events.  An afternoon of poking through rust-filled boxes or the interiors of shabby-chic furniture can be fun and profitable for families who enjoy a jaunt filled with surprises and new-to-you goods.

One of my favorite haunts is the Paris Street Market which sports a flurry of veteran vendors selling very chic merchandise. This makeshift market sets up in the parking lot of the Aspen Grove Mall on Santa Fe the second Saturday of the month, May through October.  It is a local gem.  In my opinion it is one of the best flea markets in the city, offering discerning shoppers an array of antiques, an interesting selection of shabby chic items and new baubles such as jewelry, clothes and accessories.  

  • Ah, thrift stores. When the winds of winter discourage most fair-weather thrifters, this Colorado gal prepares for a good shopping spree at the local thrift stores. Hours of season-less shopping pleasure hide within the corridors of these efficient businesses offering a profusion of home goods, trendy fashions, regular store hours and hefty sales.

I’m often asked what my favorite thrift stores are.  I love them all.  I know, it sounds like a reach, but each has its own flavor and set of rules. In order to “work” a thrift store effectively, consumers should pay attention to location (Stores located in high-end neighborhoods often carry better merchandise.), store hours and sale days. Some thrift venues, such as Goodwill, are now developing “boutique” stores that will exclusively carry designer and high-end décor.

My fondness for thrift stores, especially during the winter months, is that they are open year-around, offer organized displays, regular store hours and frequent sales.  Imagine the savings when buying resale on sale!

  • Estate sales are designed to sell the contents of a family’s estate held within the inhabitant’s home for a two to four day period. Whether a modest abode or a palatial residence, these affairs offer a wealth of merchandise tagged by professional resellers hired by the occupant’s family. These experts appraise inventory with a keen eye and set prices accordingly, and typically consider offers on the last day of the sale.

These events are efficiently advertised and well attended, so shop on the first day to get the best merchandise and the last day for the deals … when bantering and bargaining is expected.

There are twelve chief estate sale companies that hold events in the greater Denver area.  A weekly list of their proceedings, addresses and pictures can be found by going to

  • Consignment stores operate on agreements that pair the selling efforts of a store owner (consignee) with the merchandise offered by a seller (consignor).  The agent is responsible for displaying and selling the goods for the persons owning items they wish to sell. Once a sale is made, a portion of the proceeds is paid to the consignor.

These upscale shops range from pleasant to opulent and offer an array of beautifully merchandised fashions or household décor perfect for the discerning secondhand shopper.

I have yet to locate a national website that effectively registers all the shops in a given area, but I find many unique listings come up when I Google, Where are the best consignment shops in Denver?

Here is a list of my favorite consignment haunts:

  • Antiques – Ski Country Antiques in Evergreen, Colorado, at exit 248 (Beaver Brook/ Floyd Hill).
  • Designer clothing – Haute Couture, 600 Downing Street, Denver, Colorado 80218
  • Our nation is blanketed with trendy antique stores and mini-malls. Some of my most beloved crystal and decorative boxes come from the halls of these collective establishments, and are, without dispute, the sanctuary for antique, vintage and retro finds.  But shoppers beware; merchandise varies greatly. One store may boast a profusion of dusty kegs, like and tarnished vintage wares while another unfolds rooms of fabulous European treasures displayed against rich tapestries. Jenny’s Junk Emporium at 6625 W Mississippi Ave, in Lakewood, Colorado boasts both.  A potpourri of finds enthralls the most discerning shopper displaying items from trendy home décor to mechanical antiques and collectibles such as model steam engines, model trains, typewriters and sewing machines.
  • Auctions can be intimidating… at least, for first-time adventurers.  These fast-moving events boast a broad range of experiences, from the sale of farm and livestock to the primly proper atmosphere of a Christie’s Auction House.  Typically, a fee is paid giving buyers the right to bid on the items put on the auction block.  A viewing of the inventory is frequently offered the day before the sale; however, the order in which items are put up varies from auction to auction. Patience is required at these events as it may be hours before a wanted item is up for bid.  However, at the end of the day, when the throngs have fled, amazing bargains can be realized for those who have lingered until the bitter-sweet finish.

One of the most prolific auction houses in the greater Denver area is Corbett’s Auction House, Estate Sales & Liquidation located at 4921 S Santa Fe Dr, Littleton, CO 80120 offer their customers a full-service solutions liquidation, estate sale and auction needs.

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  • Historically, most valuable treasures, purchased for pennies on the dollar, have been found at garage sales. According to, a painting used to cover a hole in a wall was eventually bought by a museum for $1.2 million, a baseball card put on eBay for $10.00 sold for $75,000 and  65 Ansell Adams photographic negatives, found at a garage sale and stored under a table for 10 years, was eventually sold for $ 200,000,000.
  • Shop garage sales as soon as they open.  Ads placed in post the hours of the sale and may find that they warn, “NO early-birds.”  However, you can bet the professionals will be waiting in the driveway right along with you.  My suggestion is to arrive 30 minutes early at the sales that post specific items you are looking for.  Be friendly and courteous and always ask if you might shop early.
  • Shop estate sales late to negotiate the best prices. Because these sales are run by professionals, hired by an estate, they are hesitant to negotiate before the last day. However, the situation changes when they are faced with storing or unloading all the items that haven’t moved. The last hour of the last day  is the perfect time to get in low-ball offers.  I used this technique with a hutch that now sits in my dining room.  Not only did I get an amazing deal, but I had it delivered free of charge to boot!.
  • Competition at thrift venues is keen…be decisive in selecting and purchasing. If you are uncertain about an item…pick it up as possession is ten-tenths of the law.  When I first started thrifting I passed up items that I wanted to think about only to see them in the arms of another shopper minutes later.

The Dress

I’m all grown up. And, I think I have a pretty good handle on who I am. After all, I’ve spent years assessing and reassessing my actions … my directions … my choices. Along the way, I’ve thrown out the bad and kept the good. At least I’ve tried to. But, some things just seem to stick and I’m unable to shake that old feeling or experience. That’s when I realize that, despite my efforts, I’m still a slave to my past.

One event, in particular, still haunts me. It has shadows my life in many ways … most often in the still of the night. It invades my dreams and even sneaks into my days whenever I watch a parade or attend a celebratory event or even view a lovely prom dress in a store window. It’s still there; 20 years later … 40 years later. Hell, almost 50 years later I still think about “it.” Funny how one event can define one’s life. Quietly, secretly, it imbeds itself into the very core of one’s psyche and festers there like an unattended wound.

Years ago, I was elected Homecoming Queen of my school. As Dickens once said, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…

At seventeen “the event” became the central focus my life. It defined me. I didn’t know how to handle such a coveted award. Its announcement was met with immeasurable joy. As Sally Fields naively said in her Academy Award acceptance speech, “You like me … you really like me!”

Yet, I felt awkward. Uncertain. I was humbled, but, still imprisoned in those self-conscious teen years, I had no idea how to be humble. Graciousness was not part of my social repertoire. I was self-conscious. Hyper-vigilant. I assessed every action, every reaction. I even became paranoid. What were the girls saying behind my back? Did the boys like me better?

Then there was the dress … the pièce de résistance … a symbol of the most outstanding, notable time of my life; the dress that was to symbolize my short reign. I envisioned myself as a Cinderella walking into her ball.

And finally, the highly anticipated shopping excursion arrived.

My mother took me to a secondhand store. A thrift store. A place where only poor people shopped. I was devastated. This was my moment?

I riled against the chances of finding my gown in some seedy, back-alley shop. Where was my fairy Godmother? What would people think if they knew?

After much agony and rejection, we selected a gown. I took it home. It wasn’t wrapped in tissue with a gold sticker holding the crisp papers together, nor was it enclosed in a pretty colored bag with the shops name emblazoned on it. Rather, it was stuffed in a plastic bag. So unceremonious … so deflating … so sad.

I wanted to weep. But, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I would never let my mother, who was doing the best she could to feed, clothe and house four children, see my distress … my shame.

Years passed.

I get it now. I understand why I had to travel down that thrifty road. I get that I had to get over myself. I now understand the wisdom in shopping secondhand. Today I am the “Thrift Diva”. All that I own is secondhand. And, I am proud of it. I am satisfied with smart purchases. I am proud of recycling …everything. I even like the thrill of the hunt. I relish unpacking my thrift hauls. And, yes, my purchases are still unceremoniously wrapped and stuffed into plastic bags.

But thrift has changed from the days of back-alley establishments. Thrift and consignment proudly claim their right to be on Main Street. Towns are sprinkled with thrift super-stores, mom and pop enterprises, posh antique malls and elegant consignment boutiques.

And, me? Well, I still feel the sting of those long ago moments. But, I am a different person. I’m comfortable with me. As I wander through my beautifully decorated home, run a hand over my array of fun jewelry or slip into a designer jacket I’ve paid pennies for…well, I feel like that fabled Cinderella that I longed to be … so many years ago.

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