By Sytonia Reid
"Thrifting," the buying and selling of quality used goods, has been a signature part of 43-year-old Fia Thomas’ life. Coming from a family upbringing in which thrifting was second nature, Thomas started a business made for the enjoyment of her life-long hobby.
Located at the intersection of 8th Street and Upshur Street NW, Fia’s Fabulous Finds is a women’s clothing store that offers designer and name brand items for competitively low prices. Along with husband and co-owner Frank Thomas, California-native Fia has run the store while raising a family in Petworth for the past five and a half years.
“You will never get rich doing what I do. Ever," said Fia. "You have to love what you do and honestly you have to do a lot of different things too."
Fia, who also works as an event planner at Mance & Associates, first began selling used clothes out of her own home. When her customer base outgrew the size of her living room, she and her husband combined funds to lease a store. Fia’s Fabulous Finds opened as an operating thrift store in 2011 and has since been inviting people in DC, Maryland and Virginia to explore bargains or drop off clothes in exchange for money up front or store credit.
Fia’s Fabulous Finds is also the product of a family effort as Frank assists with the daily operations of the store, including keeping records of sales, organizing clothes items and helping customers. “Hopefully we will own our own location one day, that’s our goal,” Frank said, speaking of the couple's vision to expand their small store space.
Urban-dwellers, and millennials especially, have taken advantage of the increase in thrift stores popular in major cities like DC as more people are adopting economic shopping habits. Nestled in a metropolitan area that also serves as a complex for several college campuses, including the nearby Howard University, University of the District of Columbia and American University, Fia’s appeals to a diverse customers who all have the goal of cost-effective spending in common.
“I think people are starting to wise up, especially in today’s economy, there are options,” said customer Kafi Lemons.
Though it may not be the most lucrative business, Fia’s Fabulous Finds has special promotions in that allows the business to make a modest profit. With its celebratory store personality and striking sales such as the "Monthly Fill-A-Bag" event, Bargain Basement Tuesdays and VIP Happy Hour Fridays, these special deals have become strategic in keeping the business afloat. Likewise, some of the classic brands customers have found at Fia’s are Calvin Klein, J Crew and Manolo Blahnik.
“I think that this thrift store has a lot of character," said Kafi. "Most thrift stores don’t really have character, it’s just like, ‘here’s somebody’s unwanted stuff.’ But this store has a lot of vibrancy and a fun spirit."
Customers who visit Fia’s are also likely to notice the images that persist throughout the store. Portraits of Pam Grier, Dorothy Dandridge, Nina Simone, Josephine Baker, Billie Holiday and other iconic African-American women adorn the store's walls in homage of what Fia calls a “classic” beauty.
“To create a space that is not only a second-hand store but is also my space is a wonderful feeling… it just became cool to have natural hair and stuff like that, but there used be a time when real beauty existed and these, to me, are classic women and that’s what this whole store is all about,” said Fia.
You can learn more about Fia's Fabulous Finds online.
Ed note: This is a special article written by Sytonia Reid and published for class credit at Howard University (as well as to shine a spotlight on a great local neighbor).
I am an eternal student from Jacksonville, Florida currently pursuing a B.A. in English at Howard University. As an emerging journalist, what excites me most is having the chance to lead conversations about the social and political developments of today. I hope to one day become a fully fledged multimedia journalist and writer and create a space for understanding between diverse communities. Now a senior in college, I am excited for the next chapter of life and hope to continue exploring this city I have come to love. When I’m not doing school work, I like to go to poetry slams, visit the many museums of DC and binge watch my favorite shows on Netflix.
You can contact Sytonia via the Petworth News Contact Us page.