VSG hosts free pop-up thrift store

The pop-up thrift store was located at the Sarratt Gallery and featured over 2,000 pounds of used clothing sourced from Vanderbilt community donations.


Shun Ahmed

Pop-up thrift store in Sarratt Student Center, as photographed on Sept. 2, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Shun Ahmed)

Katherine Oung, Staff Writer

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 2, the VSG Environmental Affairs Committee opened their second ever pop-up thrift store in the Sarratt Art Gallery with assistance from the Vanderbilt Alumni Association. All of the items at the thrift store were free, and community members could donate and take items during the store’s open hours of 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. CDT. 

“There’s a huge need for a store like this, where items are free to give and free to take. When people are moving out, things are hastily thrown away and people end up repurchasing those same exact items,” VSG Environmental Affairs Chair and project coordinator Jenn Coen, a senior, said. “I wanted to target unnecessary waste in an institutional way.”

Per Coen, the thrift store collection totaled over 2,000 pounds of clothing. A majority of the clothes were sourced from the May 3-10 VSG Clothing Donation Drop. The thrift store also had a section for used books and textbooks, organized by the VSG Academic Affairs Committee and Academic Affairs Chair Tanya Iyer, a junior.

Senior Alina Jones visited the thrift store on Aug. 28 and again on Aug. 31. Jones stated that she took multiple items from the shop while also donating a piece of her clothing.

“On the first day it opened, I came here 20 minutes early and each of the three entrances to the Sarratt Gallery had a crowd of people standing around it,” Jones said. “People were making really conscious decisions about what they were taking and being respectful of others that might need access to items that they already have.”

Due to high attendance at the thrift store during its opening weekend, VSG restocked the store twice on Aug. 29. Throughout the rest of the week, organizers restocked the store once a day so community members could find different items if they visited on multiple occasions. People could also return an item that did not fit or that they no longer wanted by simply bringing it back to the store.

“The clothing items we put out for the past week is roughly half of what we collected from Spring semester and we’re planning on doing another collection at the end of Fall semester,” Coen said.

Coen stated that the VSG thrift store was inspired by free thrift stores at peer institutions, such as Cornell University. When Coen served as a committee member of VSG Environmental Affairs in 2020, she proposed that VSG should organize a pop-up thrift store. The 2020 event lasted two days instead of six and featured a smaller collection. Per Coen, VSG also expanded the thrift store’s hours from the 2020 pop-up to accommodate more faculty, staff and student schedules.

“This time around we wanted to address issues of accessibility and equity more intentionally,” Coen said. “We were also more focused on advertising it in a greater capacity and welcoming the entire Vanderbilt community rather than just the undergraduate body.”

Coen stated that the layout of the thrift store—which organized clothing by style, such as formal wear and workout clothes—was intentionally gender-neutral.  

“I noticed a lot of the clothing is for female-identifying people, so finding more ways to get donations from other groups so they can find things that suit their personal style could be considered for next time,” Jones said.

During their campaign, VSG President Hannah Bruns and VSG Vice President Kayla Prowell stated that they hoped to create a year-round free thrift shop on campus. Coen stated that VSG plans to host more pop-up thrift stores in the future and has been discussing the logistics of a permanent thrift store space with campus administration and the Alumni Association.

“We definitely can keep learning how to make sure the initiative is benefiting marginalized communities on campus in the most efficient and effective way,” Coen said. “My dream is for it to provide the most it can for all the students.”