Uptown Cheapskate finds success in College Park
By Aaron Arnstein
Without major clothing stores such as Lululemon, Nordstrom, or Old Navy in College Park, young adults are left searching for a store that fits their style.
Enter Uptown Cheapskate.
“If you think about the sort of brands that particularly college students, but just in general people want to wear, they’re not in Prince George’s County,” owner of College Park’s Uptown Cheapskate, Liz Butler, said. “There’s no Madewell, J.Crew. There’s no Anthropologie. There’s no Urban Outfitters. If you want brands you can get at those places, you have to come here.”
Uptown Cheapskate, or Uptown for short, is a franchise tailored to teens and young adults that buy and sell lightly used clothing, shoes and accessories from mainstream brands such as Vans, H&M and Champion. It also buys and sells from high-end brands such as Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton.
Customers bring in their used clothing, shoes and accessories, such as handbags. Trained employees select items for the store to purchase in exchange for cash or an in-store credit.
“For me, it’s very important that they [customers] know it’s resale, not thrifting,” Butler said. “We’re not going to take everything that you bring into us.”
The store relies heavily on social media to gauge the popularity of its items. “It helps us be more discerning in our selection of clothing based on how many likes they have on it, how many comments they get on it,” Butler said.
Butler is starting to use the store’s outreach to promote clothing and accessories of local artists and designers. “One of the missions of all Uptown Cheapskates, from headquarters, is for us to be a contributing member of the community,” Butler said. The store’s first community event aimed at supporting local artists and designers is planned for May.
Uptown features a wide variety of pieces from nearby artists and designers, ranging from hats to jackets to luggage to custom-made sneakers. Butler says she didn’t anticipate this when the store opened in July 2019, but she is happy to feature local pieces on Uptown’s shelves. She wants the store “to be a resource for them [local artists and designers] and to get their stuff into the wider community as opposed to just their Instagram page or selling to their friends.”
Uptown’s support of local artistry is an all-around win-win, Butler said. It benefits Uptown from a marketing standpoint, and enables customers to buy one-of-a-kind pieces. Moreover, the artists and designers gain exposure, confidence and income from the sales, Butler said.
Grant Hadden, 22, visits the store about twice a month and enjoys the selection and price of the items offered. “They have a good selection of sports clothing,” Hadden said. “It’s the best place to get in-store credit and trade five old things in and get $20 and get a new pair of jeans.”
Not all customers prefer Uptown’s way of business. “They really do live up to their name,” Patrick Ridley wrote in his one-star Google review of the store. “They had the audacity to make me wait for 39 minutes, only to reject most of what I brought in and insult me with $9.50 in cash. Trust me, one star is still too generous for these cheapskates,” he said.
Butler makes it clear the store is selective in the items it buys from customers. “We spend a lot of time on style, condition, brand and demand before we take anything in. So if you’re bringing in something with missing buttons, stains, tears or unfashionable, or it could be super fashionable but in this area there’s no demand for it, then we simply won’t take it,” Butler said.
The store also faces constant employee turnover. The majority of employees are high school or college students. “Pretty much every three months I have to retrain an entire new staff,” Butler said. “By the time they’re up to speed they graduate; they go on break for summer.”
Butler said Uptown’s combination of variety and price sets it apart from similar retail stores. “You can go to one place and get a Madewell T-shirt and a pair of Jordans for a third of what you would pay for anywhere else,” she said.