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Antique Sugar's Sweet Sustainability Goals

By Gib Manrique 


With Phoenix remaining the fifth largest city in the United States, its fashion and culture sprout many unique businesses, with many customers looking for something different. Antique Sugar, a vintage store located on 2nd St in Downtown Phoenix, seems to provide that unique look into Phoenix culture. 


Owners of the business, Sarah Bingham and Annamarie Sanchez, have built their business on reselling vintage clothes, mainly from the 60s’ and 70s’.


“We have known each other since high school,” Bingham said of herself and Sanchez. “We were always thrifters before “thrifting” was even a thing…even when it was marginalized we just found the coolest stuff.”


Sanchez had always said that the clothes the pair found would be useful for the shop they opened one day in the future. That shop became real in 2010 when Antique Sugar started. The store has now been operating for about 13 years. 


The store has found significant success within the past decade has been open, and has appealed especially to younger audiences from the Arizona State University Downtown Phoenix Campus. 


One of the most appealing aspects of the store is its emphasis on sustainability within fashion, and how cheaply made clothes are harmful to the community, and the environment. 


“I’m huge on the environment… so shopping secondhand, in general, is important, and it’s also really important for me to shop small,” Anna Snow, a former sales associate at Antique Sugar and ASU alum, said. “Even a local business that is making its products is still doing less harm than like Amazon.”


Due to the sustainability-focused nature of the owners, the vintage shop has faced some backlash from frustrated customers. The main issue as described by Bingham, is the high prices of the antique items showcased at Antique Sugar. 


“I think when people compare our prices to fast-fashion prices, the difference is substantial,” Bingham said. “The whole ‘I can get a t-shirt for $2 on the internet’... somebody is a slave for that t-shirt, but it’s hard to explain that to people. We don’t need this high level of consumption, there’s enough stuff in the world already.”


Bingham expresses that these prices are not out of greed, but rather a necessity to provide the pieces they have in stock. According to the owners, the actual paystub received is not significant enough to make a substantial profit. They provide enough to pay bills and give their few employees a livable wage. 


Another component is the business being impacted by the growth of online shopping, and the increased popularity of the younger generations interested in second-hand clothing. Despite Antique Sugar already having a space appealing to teenagers, they still have to keep up. 


“For online vintage selling, I think it has impacted what people think is vintage,” Snow said. “People are selling Y2K stuff and that is technically vintage because it is 20 years or older. I would say the biggest section we have is ’ the 60s…now we’re being called “true vintage”. Before there wasn’t a difference but now there is.”


Besides this new distinction, Bingham and Snow both don’t fully see Antique Sugar being impacted by the online reselling culture present within apps like Depop and Poshmark. Bingham fully supports healthy competition and appreciates the stigmatization against wearing used clothes being diminished. 


While the actual running of the store isn’t making any millionaires, Antique Sugar isn’t closing any time soon. 


“I want our employees to be able to have a life and not work to live,” Bingham said.  “I’m never gonna get rich, I’m not gonna be able to retire doing this… but I feel good about what I’m doing every day and I like being environmentally helpful.”


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