Uptown Cheapskate Tampa Palms owner Amber Watt.

We bet you didn’t realize that there’s money hiding in your closets. It’s sitting there right now. And no, we’re not talking about that $20 bill you found in your jacket pocket, so continue reading if you need a little Covid-19 cash boost. You really can find some convertible cash on your hangers, in your drawers and sitting on your shoe racks.

Thanks to Uptown Cheapskate — a chain of fashion retail stores that are similar to a thrift store but with more upscale, designer-label items — the clothes, shoes and accessories you no longer want, may be of resale value to you. The 4,800 sq.-ft. store that opened in the Publix-anchored City Plaza at Tampa Palms shopping center back in November of 2018 has re-emerged from a temporary Covid-19 closure in need of more trendy clothing and accessory items that you may have outgrown or stopped wearing or using for whatever reason.

Every day, the local Uptown Cheapskate buys your items from the time they open up until an hour before closing. There’s no appointment necessary, but the staff does prefer that your former fashions arrive in hampers or bins. You can shop while one of Uptown’s 12 employees sorts through to find inventory they need. From there, your “upcycled” clothes go through an appraisal system that generates two offers. You can choose cash or store credit — the latter yields an extra 25-percent value.

So, what should you be looking for the next time you clean out your closets? Uptown Cheapskate Tampa Palms owner Amber Watt says the store accepts a plethora of name brands, and fashions ranging from XS-XXL. The store is particularly in need of high-waisted “mom” shorts and jeans, crop tops, tank tops, shirts and trendy, summery pieces from brands like Zara and H&M.

“We cater to a very wide range of people and that’s what makes us so successful,” says Watt, who adds that she regularly shopped at Goodwill as a youngster before attending West Virginia University in Morgantown on a full academic scholarship and studying engineering.

Watt’s store is one of three in Florida from this national franchise that includes more than 80 locations in two dozen states. It launched in Utah more than a decade ago., and the Tampa Palms store is the only one in the Tampa Bay area. Watt says it was doing very well until the novel coronavirus forced a temporary shutdown in March.

“It hit us pretty hard,” says Watt, who was very happy that Publix, the landlord for the plaza, issued her a rent abatement for two months. “We were having a pretty strong Saturday in the middle of March and by the next Saturday, we were completely shut down. We did start an online store over the break (Uptown-Cheapskate-Tampa-Palms.myshopify.com) and were able to keep some of the staff on. It helped, but it wasn’t what we needed.”

Uptown Cheapskate reopened at 25-percent capacity during the first week of May and went to 50 percent by the end of that month. It returned to full capacity by June, along with some new changes.Sneeze guards have been installed on all of the counters and stickers are now on the floor depicting the 6-feet social distancing space.

All employees must wear face masks and customers are required to as well. The store provides free disposable face masks for customers and also sells double-layer cloth masks. All six dressing rooms are sanitized and locked each time a customer uses one, and hand sanitizer is available at all stations. 

We Want Your Clothes!

“It was surprising when we reopened,” Watt says. “We expected a lot of pent-up demand to sell us clothes, but when we reopened, it was really the opposite. We had a lot of customers shopping for clothes, but not selling us (their) clothes. We were unprepared for that, so we’ve depleted our inventory quite badly and really need spring and summer clothes now. We hope everyone will clean out their closets and bring their clothes to us. ”

Whether shopping or selling, Watt prides herself on keeping a clean, organized store where customer service is paramount. Clothes are organized by size, then subcategorized by short/long and further by color groupings. The experience was something that Ashlee Fredrickson felt compelled to share on Facebook after recently making the drive from Brandon to shop there.

 “Clean store,” she said. “Plenty of safety measures in place with recent Covid-19 issues. Great selection and great prices.”

Any time you visit, shoppers should look for stickers. Depending upon the color, there’s various discounts available — as much as 70-percent off retail. Uptown Cheapskate puts new items out within 30 minutes of bringing them in and many are gone within a week. For other items that literally hang around longer, the local store offers a semi-annual sale to push through old inventory and make room for the new styles that come in every day.

Other deals to look out for include Dollar Days — where clearance items go for as low as a $1 — and the tax-free weekend August 7-9, where you save the 8.5% sales tax.

Watt says that plus sizes are hard to keep in stock and the handbag rack also is a popular display. The store also always needs shoes, especially men’s athletic footwear, and offers a wide range of bralets, complete outfits, swimwear and new and used jewelry. The casual clothing store caters to everyday wear fashions – primarily for the age 18-55 crowd.

Customer favorites include brands such as lululemon and Gymshark athletic wear, Kate Spade and Michael Kors handbags and American Eagle jeans. You will find everything from Target brands up to Gucci and Louis Vuitton. On a recent visit ,we found a Coach purse for $22.99, Victoria Secret leggings for $13.99, Adidas shoes for $27.99 and an almost new men’s Ralph Lauren Polo shirt for $13.99.

Anything that the store doesn’t purchase from you can easily be donated to the Salvation Army, which picks up donations onsite 2-3 times a week. You can leave them behind and you’ll receive a tax receipt. It’s better than having your unwanted clothes end up in a landfill, Watt says.

“Resale is on the rise,” she says. “It’s the future — for environmental reasons. Clothing in a landfill lasts up to 200 years. But, your trash might just be somebody else’s treasure.” 

Whether or not you think you have a few dollars hanging in your closet, head over to Uptown Cheapskate at 16031 Tampa Palms Blvd. W. Store hours are Monday–Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 10 a.m.-9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and noon-6 p.m. on Sunday. For more info, call (813) 287-8696 or visit UptownCheapskate.com.

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