.‘Bin’ There: Reseller culture thrives in Santa Rosa

In an unassuming warehouse off Yolanda Avenue in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa, there is a little-known, invaluable resource for thrifty shoppers: The Goodwill Outlet.

Commonly known as “The Bins,” this outlet is the last stop for Goodwill’s regionally donated items before they are sent to landfills or secondhand markets worldwide. Clothing, accessories, toys and more sit in rows of shallow blue bins and are sold by the pound.

The Bins has long been open to the public. But in recent years, as the cost of living and consumer interest in secondhand goods rises, The Bins has become a reseller’s jobsite.

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According to a report from online resale store ThredUp and GlobalData, the U.S. reselling market is expected to reach $70 billion by 2027. On a rainy Friday morning, I visited The Bins to ask local resellers about their line of work.

For Cody Brown, owner of Crooks Coffee on Mendocino Avenue, reselling is a means of revitalizing Santa Rosa. In 2020, when pandemic restrictions temporarily closed his cafe, Brown began accepting donations to distribute to local unhoused people. The volume of those donations, combined with the needs of the community he serves, gave Brown the idea to expand his reselling business to offer his community “income and job training.” These days, he brings a group of 10 or so guys to The Bins to help him source.

Part-time reseller Sasha Rushmeyer comes once a week to find a new outfit for herself and to pick up a few items to sell on Facebook Marketplace under her full name. Rushmeyer, who is an operations specialist for the Sonoma County Regional Parks, explained that “sustainability is super central to who I am as a person.” As a child, she frequented The Bins with her mother and aunt.

Though Ryshmeyer is well compensated by the parks, reselling helps her offset the increasing cost of living in Sonoma County both for herself and her buyers. She keeps her prices low because she loves “helping people out by selling cheap stuff on Marketplace [in order] to prevent brand name backpacks from ending up in the landfill.”

A successful reselling business comes down to “having an eye,” as another part-time reseller who wished to remain anonymous told me. Coming to The Bins gave him something to do after a divorce, but soon turned into a lucrative side hustle. These days, he sources part time for local antique sellers and earns enough to cover the cost of his monthly car payment. During our conversation, he uncovered a mink stole underneath some dusty Easter baskets.

Full time reseller Austin Henderson credits his anonymous colleague for bringing a congenial spirit to The Bins, and seeks to create a warm atmosphere himself. When he learned I was writing about resellers and am one myself, Henderson offered me sourcing tips, like checking the pockets of an item for money. “Someone found a thousand dollars in a coat pocket once,” he whispered, as if telling me great reselling lore.

This seeming-folktale was later confirmed as truth by other resellers who recalled that wildly lucky moment (as well as the sadness many felt for the former coat owner). Later in the day, Henderson handed me a black leather Tory Burch backpack he’d found because he thought it suited my style.

Moved by his generosity, I met up with Henderson on Easter Sunday at Midgley’s Flea Market in Sebastopol, where he sells his wares. But by the time I got there at midday, Henderson was standing in front of an empty table. He’d met his sales goal for the day and was packing up to head home. Before he left, he introduced me to another friend: AJ Close, owner of an eBay store called 707 Collectables.

Close is a Sonoma County-based father of two. He left his career as a hospice operations manager to pursue reselling video games and Pokemon cards full time. Close made six figures in his first year of business, more than his former salary. Today, Close also consults with local resellers starting out. For a small fee, he will help set up an eBay store based on his own business model. Even with this new arm of his business, Close finds his work “much more manageable” than the demands of hospice management. As we chatted, he was eager to offer me advice for my own business.

Like many resellers, my interest in reselling is personal. And like Rushmeyere, I started casually back in 2019. I was living in New York City when a trip to The Bins in Long Island City forced me to physically confront overconsumption. The blue bins overflowed with Purple Label Ralph Lauren cashmere sweaters, Armani jeans and Dolce & Gabbana dresses. While it was invigorating to dig through these piles of luxury goods, I also felt sick imagining pretty things rotting in a landfill while fast fashion stores popped up all over Manhattan.

Now because of the demands of parenting and a premature menopause diagnosis, I resell seriously. At 38 years old, my rare health issue could have happened for a variety of reasons, but one stands out: environmental exposure. Microplastics commonly found in clothing and housewares are endocrine disruptors. Lifetime exposure may have contributed to my early menopause diagnosis.

Through my eBay store, HydeStreetStyle, I sell clothing made from natural fibers that I source primarily at The Bins in Santa Rosa and at local estate sales. But my personal stance alone won’t be my key to success. Close and Henderson believe people buy secondhand because the product makes them happy.

707 Collectibles customers Noah and Adrian (who preferred only using their first names) confirmed Close and Henderson’s belief when I asked about their purchases. The gamers were holding new-to-them vintage Pokemon cards that Close and Henderson told me often continue to increase in value beyond the point-of-sale. Whether for that reason or because these rare cards will add new dimensions to their Pokemon battle, Noah and Adrian were excited to have found their new creatures. With cards in hand, under the blue Easter sky, they beamed.

Jen Hyde is a writer based in Sonoma County. Read more of her work at jenhyde.substack.com.

Jen Hydehttps://jenhyde.substack.com
Jen Hyde is a writer from Sonoma Valley. She writes about Asian American life at jenhyde.substack.com.


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