By Laura Tamayo

Vintage clothing, edgy teenagers, molded books; what’s not to love about thrift stores? With its recent upwelling within popular culture, ‘thrifting’ has become a common activity across the country, offering an array of objects at a low price and supporting sustainable fashion at the same time.

On January 22, ECHO, a nonprofit dedicated to assisting residents of unincorporated Hillsborough County with emergency food, clothing and access to life-stabilizing programs and resources, saw its chance and opened its very own thrift store.

“The planning for the thrift store started over 15 years ago. The organization started first with Saturday morning thrift sales, then Saturday morning thrift sales plus Boutique clothing sales, next came the social enterprise: ECHO Handmade. In June 2019, the ECHO Boutique opened, and now, finally, we have a thrift store,” said Eleanor Saunders, executive director of ECHO.

ECHO as an organization has been serving the Tampa community for over 30 years. “Last year alone, ECHO distributed 1.2 million dollars worth of clothing, free of charge, to our neighbors in need,” boasted Saunders.

Though ECHO enjoyed having its small boutique, Saunders emphasized that it needed a place to expand its vintage clothing collection (all the rage, nowadays).

The ECHO thrift store will also offer men’s clothing, books, housewares and children’s clothing, all items that the boutique did not have.

Though this broad collection of items being sold is enough to reel in a crowd, what sets ECHO apart is its mission to service. The majority of donated clothing is given to low-income families and individuals in the Tampa area, with only excess clothing being sold at the thrift store. One hundred percent of all proceeds from the thrift store go directly to fund food donations, clothing, job coaching, and free GED classes.

All in all, if you’re looking to thrift somewhere that isn’t plagued by the epidemic of the ‘alternative’ adolescent (yet), offers an extensive array of goods and contributes to the improvement of our community, head to ECHO Boutique at 424 W. Brandon Blvd. in Brandon.

Interested, but penniless? ECHO is always on the hunt for committed volunteers as well as donations. Contact volunteercoordinator@echofl.org for volunteering inquiries and drop off any donations you may have at the ECHO Riverview and Brandon locations.