A self-described “lifelong thrifter” who has always wanted to open her own business, Amber Watt’s dream has come true with her upscale resale boutique, Uptown Cheapskate, located in the former Ellen’s Hallmark space in the City Plaza at Tampa Palms shopping center.
Uptown Cheapskate opened on Nov. 8. Since then, the store has been growing in popularity, as men and women discover they can not only buy trendy, brand-name clothes at prices that are 70-90 percent off of retail prices, they also can sell their unwanted clothes for cash or store credit.
The store is part of a national franchise that started in Salt Lake City in 2009, and now has 70 locations across the U.S., including three in Florida. At 4,800 square feet, the Tampa Palms location is larger than most Uptown Cheapskate stores, which are typically about 3,000 square feet.
The large store means lots of inventory for shoppers, and it’s all kept organized and neat, to feel more like an upscale boutique.
And, the way Amber and the store’s nine employees treat customers is boutique-like, too.
“Customer service is our top priority,” says Amber. “We greet every customer and will pull items out of back stock to help a customer find the perfect piece. Our staff continues to receive five-star reviews (on social media) for customer service.”
Angela Tamecki is one customer who has taken notice. “I’ve shopped at resale shops for a long time because you get great deals,” says Angela, a Pebble Creek resident who says she used to drive to South Tampa to go to thrift shops, but now visits Uptown Cheapskate more than once a week. “It’s a different environment. I don’t even think of it as a thrift store, because it’s more upscale.”
Angela says the store’s staff members are warm and welcoming, coming out from behind the counter to help her.
“Even after I’d only been there a couple times, they seem to know what brands I like,” she says. “It really shows that they want to take care of their customers.”
Amber says that out of necessity, she shopped at Goodwill and other thrift stores growing up. After high school, she attended West Virginia University on a full academic scholarship, where she studied engineering.
She then worked as an industrial engineer in the aerospace industry for Boeing and Honeywell for 12 years.
She says, “I enjoyed the challenge of it and was proud of what I was working on,” including Chinook helicopters for the military. “But it was always my goal to open my own business, and being an engineer was my stepping stone to get here.”
Clothes For A Good Cause
Amber and her husband Zach have three elementary school-aged children. She says they are all supportive of her dream to own this business. She adds that Uptown Cheapskate is a perfect fit for her, with her love of fashion, experience with resale, and even her passion for caring for the environment.
“North America sends 9.5 million tons of clothing to landfills each year,” explains Amber. “Recycle them to Uptown Cheapskate instead! Even if you buy it used from us and then wear it a couple of times, if it’s still in great condition, sell it back to us. We don’t want it to end up in a landfill.”
Sell Your Clothes, Too
Uptown Cheapskate accepts clothes for all seasons, all year long. That means you can sell your winter items now, even though no one is interested in buying them. Amber stores them until they are back in season and ready to go out on the sales floor.
Amber also says she is always in need of more clothes, especially men’s clothes. She promises the process is quick, and you can even drop off clothes and come back later for your cash payout or store credit. Sellers receive 25 percent more for their items if they choose store credit instead of cash.
Shoppers can save even more money if they both sell and buy on the same day. Because of tax laws, Amber says if you sell your clothes to Uptown Cheapskate and then use the store credit to make a same-day purchase, you don’t have to pay the 8.5-percent Hillsborough County sales tax.
If your purchase amount exceeds the store credit offer, only the difference will be taxed. Unused store credits remain on your account for three years, but purchases made on future days do require sales tax to be paid on them.
Partners In The Community
Uptown Cheapskate gives back to the New Tampa community in several ways.
The store has a partnership with the Salvation Army. When you bring your clothes to sell to Uptown Cheapskate, any “no-thank-you items” that the store doesn’t purchase can be donated directly to Salvation Army, and you get a receipt, without having to make a second trip.
Amber also notes that Uptown Cheapskate partners with several local schools, including Wharton and Wiregrass Ranch high schools and Chiles Elementary, to offer gift certificates to a teacher or other staff member each month. She also provides gift certificates for a student recognition program at Wharton. Teachers and students also get a 15-percent discount every Monday.
The store’s next popular “fill a bag” sale is scheduled for Friday-Saturday, April 26-27. On those days, Uptown Cheapskate will provide a bag for customers to stuff all the specially-marked product they can fit, then take the entire bag home for $15. Anyone who participates in the sale also gets 15-percent off the rest of the items in the store.
“The deals are amazing,” says Angela. “They’ve got such a great inventory, including things I couldn’t afford to splurge on in a retail store. I’ve seen everything from mall brands to Prada. I don’t know how many people realize you can get those kinds of deals on things like that.”