Possibly since the dawn of time, broke college students have wondered where they could go to furnish their dorms and clothe their backs at an affordable price. After paying for their tuition, thrifting ceases to be something of a whimsical trip to waste an afternoon. Instead, it becomes a weekly errand in which a shirt priced at $1.89 is as valuable as their next bowl of Ramen. Every student needs a break financially, in one way or another. Standing as a golden rule, it is known that frugality is key for the collegian’s survival; nay, for members of the middle class as well, for in these times of economic trouble, everyday families, as well as art students, are looking to save a few dimes. Where is it, that we can save said dimes?
Entering the public’s awareness earlier this summer, Thrifty Tickets, Appleton’s newest thrift store, is the right candidate for that. Entrepreneur Frank Hamilton, owner of the rookie-thrift store, opened-shop in hopes to reinvent the Valley’s preconceptions about thrifting. Thinking about the community first comprises what he believes will be not only beneficial to his store, but more importantly, to the people who frequent it. “I’ve been here for 12 years, and I just love this area,” Hamilton says. “People here are good. They’re good-hearted, and they mean well. This is a great place to raise a family, and having another place to clothe your family for an inexpensive cost is wonderful.”
Saving money has always been something that Hamilton has strived for. While growing up, he thrifted occasionally with his family. Eventually, it developed into a hobby. Introducing his store, he explains his managing style. “Even though I’m for-profit, I’m from the community. Everything that I make, and everything that I have available to the community, all stays here.” Sipping his coffee, he then continues. “We have two floors, with a mezzanine, which gives [the store] a beautiful look. The building has so much character.” Music hums softly throughout the store. Inside, woven together by the pleasant mid-day aura, scattered customers are searching the racks to find vegetarian cookbooks and to “see if they have that one Cat Stevens record.” Never one to ignore his guests, Hamilton stays keen to them throughout the interview, ready to spring to attention if they need assistance.
Eagerly, he resumes our conversation. “I originally did this for the Lawrence (University) kids, because there were only two options for them. Fox Valley Thrift, over the bridge, and St. Vinny’s, over the viaduct. I figured there needed to be a more central location.” “My prices, my furniture, I’ve really, so far, kept true to it, are under $100. So, sofa/love-seat sets are all under $99.99. A Lawrence kid, with a new dorm room, or with a new apartment, can come in and furnish their whole spot for $300–400 bucks.”
Shopping locally and inexpensively would also ripple into the street outside, College Avenue; Appleton’s jugular. Adding economic glimmer to Appleton’s bloodstream. “If we keep everything here on College Ave, then maybe it would help the businesses here too,” Hamilton says.
“Hopefully, come October 1, with the elevator being fixed, the third floor will be all clothing. I think that we’ll be the first three-floor thrift store in Wisconsin, so that’s going to be a big draw.” Despite the up-town size, Hamilton won’t let the small-town feel wear off. “I want people to be able to come in here, and just say hi.” Hamilton says. “Like the old days, you come in, I have some coffee here, I say, ‘You want some coffee? We’ll get you cup. Let’s talk; see what’s going on.’ If you find something, wonderful. If you don’t, I’ll see you again.”
“Eventually, we’re going to be doing live music in here, once a month, and that was to touch base with Lawrence kids. And then, we’re going to have an art-wall as well. It’s going to be called “Art is a Start,” and that way, there will be a venue for local artists to display and sell their artwork.”
When asked about his musical preferences, Hamilton responds with selfless ambiguity, strengthening his community-oriented manifesto. “I don’t know what type of music yet, a lot of soft rock bands are interested, but originally I was thinking more jazz or classical, but now, I might mix it up. I want to listen to the music, make sure it’s good for everybody that comes into the store, not specific to one crowd, but something that everyone can enjoy.”
—By Sean P. Lyons