Arts & Leisure Business

Middlebury secondhand boutique struts its style

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE SENIOR Ryan Kirby and Middlebury Union High School junior Ace Roark are the creative minds behind the glamorous photos popping up on Buy Again Alley’s social media feeds. The duo styles and photograph models wearing pieces from the local thrift shop to promote sales. PHOTO COURTESY OF RYAN KIRBY AND ACE ROARK

MADISON MIDDLETON AND Jacob Raymond model Buy Again Alley looks in downtown Middlebury. Photo by Ryan Kirby

Picture this: A model pauses to pose at a corner on Main Street in downtown Middlebury. They shrug a fur-trimmed, beige, paisley coat to reveal a bright blue turtleneck tucked neatly into a pair of tight, red slacks. The ensemble is punctuated by a pair of white stilettos with a Louboutin flare. A gold collar necklace and pair of rounded, cat-eye shades accessorize this glam figure. 

In a moment many of us would wonder, who wore it better? That sure seems like an outfit that trended back in the ’80s-’90s. Yes, actually, that’s exactly what it is. What some of us “wouldn’t be caught dead in… again” are now fashion finds by the younger generations.

“My friends and I have been coming to Jutta’s for clothes, shoes, volunteering and having fun for a long time,” said Ace Roark, referring to Jutta Miska’s gently used re-sale shop, Buy Again Alley. 

Roark, a junior at Middlebury Union High School, has been volunteering for three years and dabbles in the arts. His recent interest in photography, paired with an enthusiastic new employee at the shop has spurred an inspiring social media feed for Buy Again Alley.

“Early November was my first post,” said Ryan Kirby, a senior at Middlebury College who’s helping Miska with her social media for his work-study program. “I love this kind of stuff and fashion is definitely something I’m interested in… We needed to create a more intimate connection with our Instagram posts, so I started calling friends up and asking if they’d be interested in modeling.”

Kirby, who comes from Waco, Texas, and is majoring in theater with a focus on directing, is anything but shy. 

MADISON MIDDLETON MODELS an outfit from Buy Again Alley. Photo by Ryan Kirby

“I’m like all the Fab 5 rolled into one,” he exclaimed. “On a photo shoot, I’m very fast paced. I like to give the models characters to play and have fun with.”

Both Kirby and Roark are behind the camera adding their own creative lens. Then the images are edited to add in “price tags” — word overlays on the image — and posted to social platforms. 

The result is a professional, fun and effortless post that resonates across boundaries.

“Our generation is much more open to trans and non-binary trends,” Kirby said. “We’re their friends, neighbors and allies. That’s really exciting for me. We’re doing this in a way that’s not intentionally trying to draw attention to all the charged dialogue out there. We just want to be happy and feel happy, and this is a great outlet.”

“It’s also always been our mission to connect college students and high school students,” Miska explained. “That mentorship can be really important.”

Miska, who helped found and direct the teen center Addison Central Teens, opened her thrift boutique in early 2017 down in Frog Hollow Alley. She moved her shop up to Main Street in October 2019.

And then, yes, you guessed it, the pandemic hit. 

“I’m not a social media person,” Miska admitted freely. “I’m just not. So when Covid happened I tried to take pictures, but there’s a 45- or even 50-year age difference between me and some of the models. Now with Ryan and Ace, it’s a whole different ball game; they’re working with friends and everyone is loose and comfortable.”

PEYTON MADER IN a mint blazer. Photo by Ryan Kirby

Miska reported that business through the pandemic has been very slow. 

“If it weren’t for all the free hours my volunteers and employees have given me, the shop would not have survived,” she said, adding that the Main Street location does bring more traffic and more donations, but also more rent. 

“Business has really picked up since May this year,” Miska clarified. “We are very grateful to all our customers for supporting us.”

Buy Again Alley has expanded its offerings to include gently used clothing for all genders and all ages, houseware, jewelry, accessories, shoes, holiday items, local artwork, and up-cycled clothes — where small rips or stains are covered with embroidery or paint.

“We’re walking a fine line of having something in here for everyone,” Miska said. “One thing I know for sure is that I don’t dare give anything away before asking my students.”

Kirby laughed, adding, “It’s really fun to play with fashion and mix in some colors and styles that aren’t seen as ‘current’ now. Fashion should be big and daring! Yeah, I’ll say it, I just might be trendsetting in Middlebury.”

Editor’s Note: Follow @buyagainalley to see Ryan Kirby and Ace Roark’s photo shoots with clothing and more from Buy Again Alley. For those interested in volunteering or modeling, connect with Jutta Miska on the Buy Again Alley Facebook page.

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