‘Thrifty Fia’ Thomas sounds off on having it all

Fia Thomas inside her shop, Fia’s Fabulous Finds, which opened on Upshur Street in 2011.

This is the next story in a series about the women entrepreneurs and business owners along Upshur Street in Petworth. Join us as we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th with a special community event free for the whole family.

by Yuliya Panfil

When I call Fia Thomas on a Friday evening to arrange our interview, she’s on the bus home from her day job, at the US Treasury. Not to worry, Thomas assures me. She’ll be at her shop, Fia’s Fabulous Finds at 806 Upshur Street, momentarily, and will be staying until the shop closes. Thomas runs her successful vintage and used clothing shop while working a full-time government job and raising her two daughters.

“I can’t tell a Monday from a Saturday,” Thomas laughs. “If I’m not at the store, I’m at Treasury. If I’m not at Treasury, I’m putting chicken in the oven for dinner. If I’m not putting chicken in the oven, I’m leading the girl scout troop for my oldest daughter.”

Thrifting is in Thomas’ blood: when she was young, her family made a living off of buying abandoned storage units and reselling the used treasures they contained. As an adult, Thomas continued going to estate sales and flea markets to find clothing and accessories for herself and her daughter. More often than not though, she would find great pieces that weren’t in her size. Reticent to pass them by, Thomas would purchase the items and then open up her home on the weekend so that her friends and neighbors could shop.

“Some women in Petworth who are still my customers were shopping in my dining room,” Thomas recalls.

One day in 2011, Thomas was walking by the 806 Upshur Street storefront and saw a “for rent” sign in the window. On a whim she inquired. The price was right, and so Fia’s Fabulous Finds was born.

Fia’s recently took advantage of a Great Streets grant to renovate the front of her building.

Thomas has a steady following of vintage and thrift connoisseurs who come from around the DMV to browse her eclectic mix of clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories. She’s known for her “$35 fill a bag” sales, which are exactly as they sound: you grab a bag, fill it to the brim with goodies from the store, and pay a flat fee of $35.

So what makes a good thrift shop? Thomas says it comes down to variety, curation, and customer service. Thomas constantly updates her selection, adding approximately 50 items every day.

“I think there’s got to be something for everyone,” Thomas says. “And I try to have a variety for every woman who walks in here. This is not a hard sale. When you walk into the store you don’t always know what you’re looking for… you’re here to find a treasure.”

Fia’s racks are filled with items for men and women.

So what’s it like being a female business owner with two kids and two full time jobs? Thomas acknowledges it’s a whole lot of work with steep expectations, but finds that it’s all worth it.

“I’m really a business owner who has it all,” she says. “I’m married with kids, and I have a passion that I’m pursuing.”

And while the responsibility of owning a business can be tough, Thomas says she hopes every woman can one day have the experience of being her own boss. She says it’s a lesson she will teach her daughters, and hopes to pass on to other young women in the community.

“I have the opportunity to share my lessons learned with every girl who wants this,” Thomas says.

More Articles in this Series…