Second-hand clothing store brings sustainable fashion to Kalamazoo mall
KALAMAZOO, MI – A new clothing store at Kalamazoo Mall brings a blend of durability and functionality to downtown Kalamazoo shoppers.
A smooth opening of Great Lakes Thrift Co. is underway after being blocked by closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Located at 328 S. Kalamazoo Mall, between Down Dog Yoga Center and MRC Artworks, the store is owned and operated by Anika Johnson, a native of Baroda and a graduate of Western Michigan University.
Johnson, 28, said part of her love for finding clothes came from her mother, who was an avid antique dealer. Growing up, Johnson and his mother would visit thrift stores to pick out our favorite clothes for the new school year. The hobby grew as Johnson got older.
“It was actually only when I started studying fashion at WMU that I started saving more as a young adult and really getting into sustainable fashion and second-hand clothing,” he said. Johnson said.
After taking classes and learning how wasteful the fashion industry can be, Johnson said she kept sustainability a top priority when starting her own business. She remembers going to retail stores as a child, buying something at the mall and only being able to wear it once when the garment was destroyed in the wash cycle.
“You start to realize that quality over quantity becomes important, especially when you are on a budget as a student,” Johnson said.
Before Johnson intended to operate in a storefront, she started Great Lakes Thrift Co. in 2018 as a seller for Vintage in the Zoo, an open-air second-hand market that borders the Kalamazoo Farmers Market. with tables and tents full of vintage clothes and antiques. .
“I just came up with a name and hung my clothes up in a tent and had no idea what I was doing, and I think it was the most fun I have ever had,” said Johnson.
Johnson became a regular saleswoman at Vintage in the Zoo, attending every event in 2019. She met more established stewards, which Johnson said she took inspiration from.
“There were bigger vendors who kind of took me under their wing and I kind of learned by watching and doing,” Johnson said. “But it wasn’t until the Kalamazoo mall pop-up that we realized that people were really buying vintage and were interested in vintage clothing; there is foot traffic here and it makes sense.
Johnson saw a need for a clothing store on the Kalamazoo Mall and jumped at the opportunity to purchase the space. But a week after securing the space, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders blocked the store from opening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson said his company took this time to paint and add lighting.
Inside Great Lakes Thrift Co., customers will find vintage Harley Davidson and varsity t-shirts, denim jackets, flannel shirts and more. The space is filled with old knickknacks, vintage decors, and artwork hanging on the walls.
“I think the selection sums up my journey in life, I have lived in an urban area, I have lived in a rural area on a farm, I have lived abroad for a while, so this is is a bit of a mix of what I love to wear and the style that’s kind of created from all of these different places, ”Johnson said.
During its provisional opening, Great Lakes Thrift Co. will be open on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Great Lakes Thrift Co. Facebook page for updates.
Also on MLive: