The Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago is home to more than 15 thriving thrift stores due to the vibrant and creative urban scene the area attracts. One store in particular that receives heavy traffic especially during the holiday months is Ragstock, a new and recycled clothing store known for their large selection of ugly Christmas sweaters and vintage costume pieces.
Though there are several competing thrift stores in the Wicker Park area, Ragstock has been able to hold a high name for itself with two levels filled with a colorful array of items such as band tees, cowboy boots, and costume jewelry keeping a steady flow of customers each day of the week. However, with national retailers such as Urban Outfitters and American Apparel surrounding them, it is difficult at times for the owners to stay true to the brand.
“The owners buy the things that they think are going to be cool and sell easily,” says Emilia Aquino, 21, sales associate at Ragstock. “They say things like- ‘Maybe we should be more like Urban Outfitters,’ but we are not Urban Outfitters and we don’t need to be. We can be Ragstock and that is okay.”
Aquino said the special thing about Ragstock is that they do not constantly stick with the trends–they have created their own distinct brand within the store where anyone is able to find something fitting to their unique style.
“If you look around, there is clothing that you have never seen before and will never see again other than at that moment in this store,” Aquino said. “Last week someone brought in a jacket with rainbow fur inside of it and I put a tag on it and never saw it again. It was the weirdest jacket I have ever seen.”
Jamie Kosberg, 23, is a frequent shopper at Ragstock and looks at the store as a “one-of-a-kind” spot for costume party apparel. She was out searching for an ugly holiday sweater with her sister who was helping her choose between the hundreds of options the store has to offer.
“I really like Ragstock because they have themes for all different holidays and I usually come here when I need a quirky, themed outfit,” Kosberg said.
In addition to clothing, the wide demographic of people coming into the store is one of the aspects that makes the shop unique, said Khallid Hodge, 21, a sales associate at Ragstock.
“The variety of people I see everyday is what makes working here really worthwhile,” said Hodge.
“After working in retail for three years, there are days where I just want to get up and leave, but the different walks of life that pass through each day is what keeps me going,” Hodge said.
Lucas Munson, 19, who was shopping with his boyfriend for anything “that will get people staring” said that he had never been in a store that combined new and recycled clothing and this was a unique experience for him.
“I have never been to Ragstock before because I usually stick around the Logan Square area when I visit Chicago but, now that I have found it, I’m definitely going to do more of my shopping in Wicker Park,” Munson said.
Munson decided on an American flag poncho which him and his boyfriend both agree will be the center of attention in the streets of Chicago thanks to Ragstock.