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Freestyle recycles fashion

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A recycled clothing maven has come full circle, opening a new Midtown store just steps away from her first job in the business.

After growing up in the central city, Elizabeth Kelley opened her second Freestyle Clothing Exchange Saturday at the corner of 21st and L streets — about half a block from where she got her first job as an ironer at Cheap Thrills costume shop.

Kelley opened Freestyle at 2101 L St. as a sister store to her first resale shop, which opened in Citrus Heights in 2007. The return to Midtown feels like a return to her roots, she said.

"I really have a lot of love for that area," she said. "It’s like my home."

She was just 19 when she started working at Cheap Thrills. She was promoted to steamer before her uncle, Fred "Uncle Freddy" Smith, bought the store. Kelley actually lived on the second floor, behind front rooms used for the costume shop. She worked at Cheap Thrills for nearly a decade.

Freestyle opened in a corner spot filled for two decades by the owners of Postcards Etc. The roughly 2,000-square-foot store buys, sells and trades women’s and men’s clothing. The store carries mainly contemporary, trendy clothing and well-known labels that might be found in mall stores, with very little vintage, said Manager Meg Campoy.

"Whatever’s in style and in good condition. Things people can wear every day," she said. "A lot of resale shops are costumey. We’re into everyday wear."

On Thursday, customers brought in bags of clothing to sell or exchange. The store will pay cash on the spot (35 percent of the expected retail price) or allow customers to swap their old clothes for store merchandise (50 percent of the retail price).

Freestyle sells mostly women’s tops, as well as jeans, shoes, other clothes and accessories. The store is open daily from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. The store closes at 6 p.m. Sundays.

Kelley and Campoy saw the vacancy and recognized the location was a good opportunity. The space needed a little work. A Sheetrock wall was knocked out to reveal an original brick wall. Layers of linoleum were scraped up, and black stain was added to the old red concrete floor. Columns and a ceiling beam were painted red or black.

Recycled clothing stores are growing in popularity as people try to save money during the recession and as many become more aware of the world’s limited resources, Kelley said.

"It wasn’t always as cool as it is now," she said. "We just have to be more conscientious of what we have. Reusing things is so wonderful. It just makes sense."

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