From the golden ceiling to the carefully arranged shoe rack, everything in El Dorado Thrift Store is designed to feel like a stylish boutique.
âWe look fancy, but we’re not expensive! This is how co-owner Diane Villagomez puts it.
That’s because Villagomez and his sisters grew up in clothes their mother painstakingly bought from cramped and messy thrift stores, as that was what they could afford.
âI remember she used to go to thrift stores for hours on end to maybe find a room maybe two. And the most important thing for her was not to get caught by anyone, ârecalls Villagomez. “She’d be like, okay, when someone sees you with a shirt on and they like it, you just tell them you bought it at that store, okay?” You don’t tell them you bought them at a thrift store.
So when Villagomez and his family opened El Dorado in Logan Square, they wanted to create a welcoming and well-organized store that everyone would be proud to shop in.
“Historically, El Dorado was a hidden city, and it was thought to be completely filled with gold, right?” she said. âSo that’s basically what we wanted to aim for when we opened the thrift store. We wanted to make it a little hidden corner where people can find gems.
âFor our culture in particular, it’s always about, you know, finding these great deals, being economically feasible for the family,â Villagomez said. “And it turned into something just fun, I think.”
El Dorado buyers Areli Estrada and Katherine Sain say they value the look and feel as much as the price tags.
âI started living on my own about a year ago, I can’t afford some of these brands right away,â Estrada said. âI’m not ashamed to go to the thrift storeâ¦ I earn my own money now, but I prefer to spend wisely.
They also have an ecological motivation to buy used.
âI would say number one is just kind of a sustainability aspect, I like to reuse,â Sain said of his store resale reasons. “I like to reuse whenever possible, but also just to spice things up.”
Just a few blocks north of Milwaukee Avenue, another resale store goes back in time to get Gen Z kids to buy second-hand.
“It has become the best way to save the planet and sort of cut down on fast fashion, as fast fashion gets more expensive and kids are increasingly on a budget, especially now with the pandemic.” said Vintage Frills. owner Jennifer Kelly. “So they’re saving like crazy.”
Kelly organizes the deals in her store and presents them sorted by color and era, from the 60s to the 2000s. That’s right – 2000s clothing is officially considered vintage.
âWhat often brings them here is the streetwear that I offer, the t-shirts, the baggy daddy jeans or ‘mom jeans’ as they call them. And they particularly like urban streetwear, so I try to find that for them because they weren’t born! It’s just the honest truth.
Kelly says that while the fast fashion vendors come up with their own take on ‘mommy jeans’, “I have real mommy jeans, they were worn by real moms, okay!” “
Vintage enthusiasts also say that the construction of vintage clothing beats the pants of fast fashion.
âI noticed that when I was shopping for vintage and looking at the labels inside the clothes, a lot of the clothes were made in America, clothes made by the Union, and they were just really well made. Â», Explains Melissa Acevedo, buyer of Vintage Frills.
And best of all: when this cozy grandma’s sweater that’s built to last gets to you, you’re part of her story.
“When you reuse things … you add memories … of clothes that were part of someone else’s wardrobe at one point,” says Es Galicia, a client of Vintage Frills. “So that’s pretty cool.”