Mars: Looking back at another world in clothing

BERKELEY, Calif. — Among a variety of restaurants, shops and street vendors, Mars stands out. The  local thrift shop in the heart of Berkeley carries vintage clothing and a wide range of apparel that appeals to both students and visitors in this college town.

Store exterior

This neon sign advertises Mars Thrift Shop, which prohibits photography within the store.

Mars,established in 1998,  features clothing dating between the  1950s to the 1990s. The current owner has been a part of the business since 2004 and now Leslie Kieffer of Lancaster, Calif.,  runs the Telegraph Avenue shop. Fifty percent of  secondhand items sold are shipped to California from several international countries, including Germany. The store’s large selection of clothing also comes from the Los Angeles area and the state of Texas.

The shop contains multiple levels; the first floor consists of men’s and unisex clothing,  with women’s on the upper level. Women’s dresses and blazers are organized by decade, while articles of clothing such as skirts, can be organized by style, cut  or length. Although feminine apparel is highly popular, the bestsellers are Hawaiian button-downs, camouflage items and denim cut-offs, all displayed on the first floor.

Prices for customers range from $10 to $175, although the average price of a garment runs between $18 and $26. Bandannas remain the cheapest product, at $2.

The vintage store on Telegraph caters to a college crowd.

The shop on Telegraph Avenue sells anything vintage from 1950s-style dresses to sunglasses from past decades.

Consumers vary, from youths attending programs on campus to students living at the school throughout the year.  One of the thrift shop’s main consumers was manager Kieffer herself. The former Cal student, who  has been working there for five years, remembers watching vintage movies with her dad and also having an interest in vintage clothing as a child. “The majority of my clothing is vintage or thrift,” Kieffer says.  She also enjoys the independence of  being able to rely on her own decisions, pertaining to other employees and the store’s incoming merchandise. She says she feels  as if she’s giving back by “recycling” secondhand clothing.