Fashion

The Real Cheap Thrill

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Story and photos by Emily Smith

On a spring day way back in 1992, Harriet Wells, a single mother and career bartender, pulled together a measly $1,000 dollars and opened a unique local business that has now become a Fayetteville institution, Cheap Thrills.

A resale and vintage clothing shop that also housed kitschy curios, furniture and quirky knick-knacks, Wells squeezed Cheap Thrills and all its wares, into a miniscule 800 sq. ft. “matchbox” of a space on Block Street, when first planting her roots in the downtown square.

The business began to boom soon after opening and Wells eventually narrowed her exotic inventory to include even more clothes and less kitsch, while waiving a fond farewell to the bulk of furniture. And with that, a vintage clothing Mecca was born.

Catering to an adults-only clientele, “The Thrill” offers a cornucopia of gently used, new and vintage clothes mixed in with off-the-wall costumes and wigs for rent or purchase. Packed to the gills with 1950s Doris Day dresses, 1960s mod gear, 1970s disco era polyester and 1980s neon and shoulder pads, the store encompasses the past 75 years quite nicely. There is literally something for everyone and hidden vintage treasures await you throughout, as the inventory is always changing. 

“Thrill Seekers” come-a-calling when in need of a new outfit, a costume for a party and wacky gear for Greek-related functions. But for vintage freaks like me, just owning a piece of fashion history is reason enough to walk through the doors on a weekly basis.  

Now 17 years strong, the local hotspot, centrally located one block south of the Fayetteville Square, hosts a variety of eager shoppers from college kids to great grandmothers and everyone in between. The store has also been known to play host to traveling artists who perform at the Walton Arts Center and The AMP, who are said to flock to Cheap Thrills for the vast array of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.

Being the self-labeled “thrift queen” that I am, I have frequented Cheap Thrills since finding myself in Fayetteville in 1996, an empty-pocketed collegiate always in search of a bargain. On any given day, you could spend ten bucks and walk out with something amazing. Through the years, the store has continued to hold true to its name: it is always cheap. And more importantly, it is always a thrill.  

I have unearthed a large majority of my wardrobe staples at “The Thrill” and am also glad to know that the money I spend goes to support an awesome local business and directly back into our local economy. So, I take this opportunity to pat myself on the back for my sense of community pride. Pat. Pat. Feels good. You should try it!

Try contributing locally by spending your money in this beautiful town in which we live. Locally owned businesses, like Cheap Thrills, depend directly on us to continue to keep them afloat. And with a fresh-minded, new president in our White House and light beckoning over a once bleak and distant economic horizon, people are excited to once again become contributing members of society. So, why not start in your own backyard?

This month, I visited the local shopping Mecca known as Cheap Thrills in search of great outfits for under $30. Not only did I find more than I had ever bargained for, I truly believe that resale and vintage shopping could give any “big business” clothing store chain a run for its money. And that, dear reader, is the cheapest thrill.

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