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Davis, California

Friday, May 24, 2024

Best Thrift Store: Bohème

Owner, employee of buy-sell-trade clothing store Bohème talk about why they love serving the community

The used clothing store Bohème in Downtown Davis often has residents and visitors ogling at its storefront, which is complete with shocking patterns, a vibrant outdoor display of tutus and Snoop Dogg prayer candles. The store sells most of its unique items for $6 to $12 and goes by the slogan “The Happiest Store in Davis.” 

Bohème, located on 409 Third St., was started in the summer of 2012 by former owner Dawn Donahue, who noticed that Davis lacked a clothing store that followed the buy-sell-trade model. A few years later, the store was sold to the current owner, Yelena Ivashchenko, who was inspired by the idea of giving clothing a new life and crafted her own up-cycled additions to the store’s massively diverse selection. 

Ivashchenko discussed how she currently operates her store while the curbside pickup rule is in effect.

“If you need something, just let me know, you can call the store, you can message me, or you can just come by and say, ‘Hey, it’s getting hot, I need some shorts, I need size this, I [prefer these] colors,’” Ivashchenko said. “In the past, I looked through my inventory, I pulled out a few items, and as they came [up] I said ‘Hey, this will fit you, this will fit you, what would you like?’ And then we did it all distantly, and then she picked up two pairs of shorts and then processed the payment right there, and it’s done. So if people are willing to do that, that works great.”

Audrey Salbacka, a Bohème employee and recent UC Davis graduate, said there is new difficulty in helping customers find the fashion they otherwise would have been able to try on for themselves. 

“We’ve been lucky enough to have a few sales through Instagram and Facebook, but it’s really hard to work with people to find something that they’ll actually enjoy when all you can do is send them pictures,” Salbacka said. “We can’t watch people try things on and see how excited they get when they’re putting the clothing on and they look great and they found something new. I really just miss being able to see people happy about their clothing, it’s very distant right now.”

Ivashchenko said she primarily misses the people who contributed to the store’s regular activity.  

“We do have a lot of regular customers, and just like, that whole aspect of seeing familiar faces and just seeing people happy, leaving the store happy — because I love helping dress up people, it’s just my favorite thing to do,” Ivashchenko said. “Just human interaction, that’s my first most important thing I miss.”

Salbacka believes that what the store offers has a different significance than everyday essential items simply picked up as a chore.  

“Clothing is something that you need, but it’s also something you can choose and feel a little bit more leisurely about,” she said. “I definitely feel like it’s very important to [self-interpret] and things like that.”

At Bohème, self-interpretation is not limited. Their Instagram showcases some of their one-of-a-kind items, such as their floaty Hawaiian shirts and atypical hats. More can be found on their site.

“I would say 80% of my customers are students,” Ivashchenko said. “My store is gearing toward the students. I try to have a variety of clothes and different things, but I depend heavily on students. So if they could reach out in any way […] — if they let me know what they are looking for — I ship items, I deliver if they’re not too far away in this area, just stay in touch, even if it’s a small comment on Instagram. I appreciate it.”

With no current store activity due to it not being an essential business, Ivashchenko has taken to utilizing her upcycling talents in her spare time by modifying some of the clothing items in the inventory. She said cravings for hot chocolate and wine have helped drive some of her creative decisions. 

“I decided to tie-dye a lot of items that sometimes come to the store and they have a little stain, or the colors have washed out, so I call it self-therapy quarantine tie-dye madness,” Ivashchenko said. “I have a whole rack that’s slowly scaling up, and I’m afraid by the end of this, my store would be bursting with colors. I have this craving for hot chocolate, so I tie-dye clothes with a color called ‘hot chocolate.’ The same thing for the wine color.”

Written by: Lyra Farrell —  features@theaggie.org 


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