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Sunset Drive-In Swap Meet

4 Jun

On Sunday mornings, the Sunset Drive-in movie theater transforms into a swap meet. People from all over the area come to sell their wares. For just $1 a person (or $2 a car), people are free to roam the rows of loved goods for a few treasures.

Students and vendors had a lot to say about the excitement of the swap meet.

The Sunset Drive-In is located near the Madonna Inn. Here is a map of how to get there from Cal Poly.

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Quarters-end Reflections

20 May

As the quarter is wrapping up, it is always a good habit to reflect on what was learned. This class taught me quite a bit about adapting writing for online. Blogging makes for much more interactive articles with hyperlinks, photos, and multimedia.

I learned a lot about different writing styles. I tried many different formats when creating a story, and definitely have a better grasp on which stories do well as video, interactive maps, or straight stories.

I also got a much better grasp on twitter through updates on stories, little things I learned about, and the live tweeting exercise. I am usually not an avid supporter of twitter, but I now understand its value. It is good to send out quick updates or little tidbits that might not be worth a story, but are good for the overall blog’s niche.

What I want to work on for the future is narrowing down on my topic. I started this blog as an adventure for myself, looking for inexpensive and fun activities. I started with thrifting because I think it is such an interesting culture. I believe with more practice and a little more time I could do a lot more with this topic. The free events appealed to me more for functional stories that fit into the class guidelines.

Through Chris’ story, I learned how financially helpful thrifting can be, if you have the time and the patience for resale. When I asked some of my friends to read this blog, they said it would be great to see more stories like this one. It is interesting to read, or rather listen to, and it appeals to both beginning and more experienced thrifters.

Goodwill Hunting: Thrifting for Money

16 May

Many people thrift as a hobby, or to find inexpensive new clothing. It is fun to search for trinkets and old vintage clothing from decades past. However, some have thrifting down to such a science they make their living off of sifting through bins at stores and outlets.

Chris Hernandez, a graphic communications student at Cal Poly, hunts through local thrift stores in San Luis Obispo for designer sunglasses, and sells them online for market price.

He says when thrift store shopping, there are three things that you have to have:

  • A trusty smartphone
  • Patience
  • A good attitude

He sits down for an early morning coffee at Blackhorse Cafe, with ambient 80’s music casually playing in the background, to share a couple of his success secrets before heading out to search through a secondhand “gold mine.”

After coffee, it was straight to the Goodwill, and the professional thrifters were out in force. A woman named Mary, who Chris says is almost always there, made a passive aggressive joke at Chris as he explained his techniques on sifting through bins.

He said, “Oh I am just showing her around,” to which she responded in a thick Scottish accent, “Oh ya, next thing you know you have have four employees under you.”

It was all in good fun, but the tension was definitely there as people stuck to themselves, hovering over boxes.

There are different techniques used as well. One girl helps them put the clothing on racks because she knows if she helps, they will bring out more stuff.

Some people dig straight to the bottom in order to unearth forgotten goods.

What started as a way to unwind for Chris, has turned into a much bigger enterprise. He is constantly making trips to the post office to drop off packages. Leah Pyron, a friend and coworker, says “it is a pain to ride in his car with all the constant boxes and we always have to make a stop at the post office. But, I am glad for him.”

Chris’ kind attitude and perseverance are really what stick out as traits that help him make this business so successful. Pyron says, “Chris has a great heart. I think that’s the secret to his success.”

Word on the Street

14 May

Hello readers! Today is an adventure in fast multimedia reporting straight from my smartphone.

I went around and interviewed some Cal Poly students on thrift store shopping. I interviewed five students, and learned that most people did not thrift shop in the area but would love to know how.

Brendan Kelly, an employee at the ASI Craft Center, had never been thrift shopping but would love to know where. “Seems both affordable and fun.”

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Chris Brenton

Chris Brenton, a computer science major says he has been a couple times to the Goodwill. “I got a flannel or two.” he also likes both the affordability and the fun.

Overall, I learned there were not many thrifters out in the UU, but a lot of people who expressed interest evenly for the hobby and the deals.

 

~Happy Thrifting~

 

The Role of Journalism

14 May

Technology has created a very different medium for journalists. As newspapers go out, more and more people are able to write what they feel through blogs and other sources.

The Internet has done quite a number on convoluting sources and is a place where it becomes difficult to sort out who is really credible.

Many people use the old media sources in the new media, such as New York Times Twitter page. I think this is a good way to receive news because it is still run by a source who edits and focuses on news.

However, many times people base the credibility on page views and how many hits a website gets. I understand this is a good indicator of what people are reading, but I do not think it is the way to judge journalists. I think many people use it for entertainment purposes and interesting gadgets or books, but I do not think blogs are the best source of real news.

Quality journalism:

1. Reports the facts

2. Identifies the correct sources

3. Focuses on what people really need to know

I think a lot of these ideologies have gotten lost in technology. By basing it on popularity, it is more for entertainment purposes. It seems like another wave of sensationalist journalism is taking over instead of the hard hitting facts. The younger generations receive “news,” but I think it is less about what is important. Sites like gawker attmpt to aggregate all disciplines, but this can make it confusing to sort through.

Society is undergoing a major shift in how we use journalism. I believe there will always be a need for true journalism, whether or not it is “popular” is not important. Newspapers and newspaper sites should stick to news, and not be as worried about attracting traffic. Now of course I understand how difficult this is with advertisers basing on clicks.

In the article, “The Economics of Online News” said there were two ways newspapers were trying to still gain revenue: “full subscriptions and pay-per article fees, often referred to as micropayments or aggregated microaccounting.” This is difficult when much of the information is out there for free, so paying for something becomes something the average consumer does not feel the need to do. I think we need to give newspapers another chance and pay for real news, because it is better than what you will find from random bloggers who believe they are the expert based on page views.

I do not know the solution, but hopefully it will start sorting itself out in the near future, as it is still a very fresh medium.

San Luis Obispo’s First Cash Mob

9 May

A cluster of people crowded in front of Phoenix Bookstore, Monday, in downtown SLO. At six o’clock sharp the megaphone sharply screeched to life, indicating the start of San Luis Obispo’s first ever cash mob.

“The rules are simple! Make at least three friends, and spend at least ten dollars. If you are too full on books, just hand the money to Bruce. God knows he needs it,” shouted Alan Cooper, head of Save Our Downtown.

The crowd chuckles and rushes—well, steadily files—into the narrow used book shop.

A cash mob is an event, inspired by the Internet sensation where choreographed dancers rush the streets. But instead of entertainment, the intent is to bring customers into starving small businesses, thus creating creating a tighter community dynamic.

Imagine it as that moment in It’s a Wonderful Life, where everyone in the town comes to support George Bailey and his failing Savings and Loan. Money is not being stuffed everywhere to the tune of Christmas bells, but there is a love the community has for its small businesses and owners.

“We want to keep the charm that diverse shopping opportunities allow people.”

This event was set up by  Save Our Downtown, a movement against chains and larger corporations coming to San Luis Obispo. Alan Cooper, the head of the organization, said the Cash Mob was an attempt to rally the community. “The idea is to keep the town from becoming anonymous” said Cooper. “We want to keep the charm that diverse shopping opportunities allow people.”

According to Cooper, a small business makes three times more total revenue for the community than a chain store. This is because they hire internally, and the money is not sent to a large corporate headquarters.

The cash mob was largely an attempt to attract a younger crowd, with a Facebook event and more online material. Cooper says. “It is important for students to discover there is more to downtown than just Higuera Street.” He hopes to inspire appreciation for more interesting shops, as they are seemingly neglected by the newer residents.

The "mob" in the front section of the Phoenix Bookstore

Entering the shop, the shelves are filled with previously loved books, obvious from the multitude of cracks running down their spines. The characteristic musty smell with a hint of aging vanilla lingers subtly in the air, the piles of yellowing pages either stacked or sprawled around different corners. It is cluttered, and yet quietly romantic, enticing the treasure hunting customers to spend hours browsing the shelves for a forgotten favorite, or maybe a new interest.

Justin Shiu, a planning major at Cal Poly, scanning the shelves at Phoenix

Justin Shiu, a graduate student at Cal Poly, is one of the students involved in the Save Our Downtown project, creating both the website and managing the Facebook page. “I haven’t been to this store since my first year, but I definitely need to come more often,” says Shiu as he thumbs through a large book on trains in the shelf marked ‘Transportation.’ “I am a planning major. I love this stuff.”

Lana Russell-Hurd, who is also a graduate student involved with the program, says she comes to the shop about once or twice a quarter to explore. “I like to pick up a novel or two. Takes me away from Planning for a while,” she said with a smile.

According the Russell-Hurd, they are planning a couple more events. “We are thinking Linnea’s for the next event,” she said. Linnea’s is a small coffee shop located at Garden Street. It is a great place for studying, or getting a quick Chai.

Check out their Facebook page to stay up to date and help save downtown SLO, while maybe picking up a couple friends along the way.

The new additions to my bookshelf.

The new additions to my personal bookshelf. “Naked” by David Sedaris, and “Dubliners” by James Joyce

Even More Thrift Store Perks

7 May

Thrift stores are starting to amp up their game, due to an great increase in popularity over the last few years. According to a story done by the New York Times, in the poor economy, thrift and secondhand stores are some of the few businesses actually growing. In 2011 there was a five percent increase in revenue nationwide. Goodwill, and other larger thrift store chains have changed their marketing strategies are changing in accordance with this new trend.

Thrift stores are now giving deals and incentives to purchase credit ahead of the game. For some that do the shopping by the bag, customers can pay an extra $5 to have early entrance. There are all different kinds of ways to save extra on the already inexpensive secondhand wear.

Some deals in nationwide stores:

  • B-Thrifty: $25 extra dollars with the purchase of a $100 card
  • Value Village: Super Savers Club with stamp rewards
  • Goodwill: Rewards Card (values change due to the different city or state)
  • Housing Works:Buy the Bag sale- about once a week, $25 to stuff whatever you would like, $5 early entrance fee

People are flocking to these stores for cheaper fashion. With a good eye, there is always something to be found in a bargain bin. Nicole Merit, a frequenter of thrift stores since the age of 14, went to a Buy the Bag sale and managed to stuff “30 items into her shopping bag, including an Armani handbag, a Calypso St. Barth dress and several pieces of knitwear from J. Crew.”

The quality of the service is also changing, as the floors are cleaned up for a less bargain bin feel. Lauretta Cunningham, the senior vice president  of Goodwill’s New York and New Jersey retail operations, remarked,

“We’re not Nordstrom, but we have people who feel our service is like theirs.”

To see more from the referenced story, click here.

Thrift Shopping v. Vintage. Shops to hit up in SLO

2 May

On a quest for new threads, both for the blog and the closet, San Luis Obispo had a lot to offer. There are many thrift stores in town, so here is a brief introduction on where to look.

The words “vintage,” and “thrift” store sounded synonymous before this expedition, but there are some very key differences when looking for where to shop. Some of these overlap, but it is key to understand what type of store and what to expect.

A “thrift” store is usually run by a non-profit organization, and takes donations of clothing, furniture, and other eclectic items. The items are very reasonably priced, and usually at a flat fee. There is a lot to look through, as they are not picky in any of their item choices. The clothes can be very strange and kitschy, and it is harder to come out with a good deal. The great thing about thrift stores, is they are more reliable than a garage sale and restock very often.

Strange moo moo kimono found in the back of Mission thrift

San Luis Obispo is full of thrift stores. According to Nina Doane, a student found foraging around in Mission Thrift, this is the best place. “Travelling way down Broad is worth it. People just bring more exciting finds here.” This thrift store supports the local Mission School. This place has both the random of a thrift store, and some select items picked out in the front that are better vintage finds.

Through my search, I stumbled upon an old Better Homes and Gardens gardening guide from the 60s for $2, and a great 1970s camel vintage blazer for $15.

Storefront for Old Mission Thrift is under a different name.

Vintage shops are much more cutesy, and it can definitely be worth the price. For the lover of older goods and clothing that does not want to search through endless piles and trips, this is the place to go.

Storefront of California Blonde

California Blonde is a little shop on Garden Street, whose owner is as bright and vibrant as the store. Joy Baker has been in business for fourteen years, and “has loved every minute of it.” This shop mostly sells vintage from the 40s and 50s, as well as some fun gift items in the front, which stick to the old era feel.

Her mother, Barbara, laughs at the strange items they have got and sold over the years. “We once bought an old Geiger counter, used in the 50s to measure radiation in bomb shelters. It was not working, but it was strung through with neon lights. A man from Arizona came in and bought it for a bomb shelter he was refurbishing.” They have seen plenty of strange stories like this and strange people. Joy says “you never know who is going to come through that door. But there is always a story. Many girls are dressed to the 9s, looking like they just walked straight out of the forties.”

The back of the store, where all the vintage clothing and records are kept

Their items come from all over San Luis Obispo and beyond. Joy claims “people find me. I don’t ever need to look.” She does not get to go to estate and yard sales with the time she spends in the store, but she is a great connection to have and has a following by way of word of mouth. She would not give away specific sources, as vintage collecting is a competitive business, as each item is so specific and unique.

The records are supplied by a specific vendor, but clothing and otherwise comes from all over. Joy says a great spot to find vintage and otherwise is “It’s a Wrap” in Burbank. They sell all the old clothing used for television. “We tried to get Kraemer’s outfits from Seinfeld,” laughs Joy, “but sadly they were gone by the time we got down there.”

This is a fun interactive spot, and definitely worth a peek if interested in authentic dresses and coats.

For a couple details and more shopping around SLO, here is a composite map of thrift stores and vintage shops in the area. The blue pins mark the vintage shops, the red pins are thrift stores, and purple is a mix. HAPPY FORAGING!

Self Evaluation

30 Apr

Nearing the halfway mark for blogging assignments, it is time to do a little self reflection. So far I have been scoping out stories that remain free and fun, which was the intention of this blog. I got some great feedback on the layout and all the multimedia, so I will keep that in mind when constructing my next story.

I am working on creating a more cohesive theme to the blog itself, or at least organizing it into categories once there is more substance. It is a little all over the map, and I want to make sure it remains an easy blog to go to when looking for the inexpensive San Luis Obispo experience you cannot find via search engine. I have not been doing as much thrifting and hunting as I would like, but the six to  seven a.m. wake ups are a little hard on a college schedule. I have some stories in the works that have to do with some tricks for good finds, although the real trick is a little luck and perseverance.

Here is a thrifty blog, make do and mend, I really like for the themes that tie together her posts, like Film Fridays and Sketchbook Sundays. They add an aesthetic and a couple ideas that make a more complete blog, and provide easy stories to fill in between larger posts. I am working on filling up my site with more than just the assignments, like quick recipes and crafts to make it look more complete.

A list of improvements to make:

  •  Add more pictures and interactive slideshows
  • Create some interesting filler stories
  • Work on promotion and gaining an audience

I would love to hear more reader feedback on SLO activities. I will be sure to add them to my compendium! Comment below, or feel free to send me a message.

Thank God It’s Free (Fridays): Art After Dark

11 Apr

Bored and broke on a Friday night? This seems to be the curse of college students and thrifters alike. For art lovers and supporters of local business, the search is over.

Every first Friday of the month, Art After Dark transforms 20 or so local businesses into a scattered art gallery, featuring an array of local artists and entertainment. This event, which typically runs from 6-9, has been put on by ARTs Obispo for nine years. It was created to introduce new artists to stores every month, helping both the arts and local economy.

HumanKind fair trade store

Entering HumanKind Fair Trade

HumanKind fair trade, a nonprofit dedicated to fully supporting farmers and craftsman through fair trade,  is an avid supporter of this event.

Last week, this tiny storefront was packed with people. A band of Cal Poly students were playing easy jazz in the storefront, providing lovely background that still allowed for good conversation. In the back was a sampler of Central Coast brewing growlers and Paso Robles wine, along with some great chips and dips. This month, they are featuring local surfing photographer Jean Paul Molyneux. <— click for a blog of his work

Joy Friesen, who manages this event for the company, loves the atmosphere.

“This event does an amazing job of bringing the community together to support both local businesses and artists. It is such a great pairing.”

Another fun stop was Old World Rugs. Greeted by a friendly table of peach sangrias and sugary goodies, the signs take you down a flight of stairs into a basement den. Colorful wallets, shoes, and canvases fill the straw floored room, with a raised circle of couches. It is a quieter, more laid back feel, but the artists are young and eager to chat.

Tommy Nickerson, a music major at Cal Poly, paints artwork on solid white Vans, as well as a couple canvases. He says the thing he likes most most about this event is “being able to see people face-to-face”, as most of his interaction is done online.

“Showcasing my work is cool and fun because i actually get to meet people that are interested in my stuff. The internet can be a cold place.”

Tommy Nickerson and some of his custom Vans designs

There are custom designs, album artwork, and very fun bright colors, each with it’s own story.

<— These shoes he made for a transgender person who wanted some theme elements incorporated into a rainbow. “I did not want to do just a traditional rainbow. Bright and colorful, but more subtle,” said Tommy. He also encorporated the transgender flag on the back (blue, pink, and white stripes).

Check out his etsy site for more of his  work.

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There were so many different stores, it was hard to get through all of them. This is a very brief representation of what is out there. A Cal Poly Graphic Communication student, Leah Pyron, just found out about it this year, and thinks the event does a great job of catering to a different kind of college student.

“It is something to do away from the norm, that also supports the town and art. Plus who can beat free snacks and drinks. It’s a whole experience.”

Come down and find your own favorite places. There is even “an app for that,” if you are an iPhone user. It features all the stores, and more about what Art After Dark is all about. There is also more information about other events hosted by ARTs San Luis Obispo.