Buffalo Exchange- South Florida Style: Meet Journalist Christian Portilla

I'm really excited about this post because I've been a long time shopper of Buffalo Exchange.

For those of you who don't know, I'm about to put you on.

Like most thrifters I was a little apprehensive to reveal where I find my treasures, but style is one of the ways I usually connect with folks so I figured I would let people in on my secret.

In 1974 Kerstin and Spencer Block opened the first Buffalo Exchange in Tucson, Arizona. Buffalo Exchange is a thrift store with over 20 locations nationwide where folks can shop new and recycled fashion.

My relationship with Buffalo Exchange began when my wife and I visited Chicago and found the first one. Since then, we base our US trips around Buffalo Exchange stores and have shopped at more than 10 of their locations.

I was spotlighted on their site about my fashion and story which you will find below: Special thank you to Buffalo Exchange for this feature and Debbie A. Photography for the photos.

We sat down with longtime Buffalo Exchange shopper and journalist Christian Portilla to talk about her personal style and her life in South Florida. She writes freelance for the Miami Herald and Miami New Times and runs her own website, RoamFreeWrites.com. Find out why she loves shopping resale and her favorite spots to visit in Hollywood, Florida!

What do you love about Florida – and Hollywood in particular?

The Hispanic community has played an essential role in my development as a human and a professional. Miami is unique: you can’t get a Cuban coffee – or “colada”, as we call it – for 75 cents anywhere else and we have the best “pastelitos” and “croquetas” in the world. In Hollywood, local shops and small businesses are really starting to take to the area and build community. I’m excited to see how it continues to grow. Hollywood also has an amazing beach that’s my go to spot to catch some waves.

Do you have any other favorite spots to visit in the Hollywood area?

Besides Buffalo Exchange and the beach, Hollywood is home to the Yellow Green Farmers Market. Many of us Miamians drive up to visit. It’s only open Saturday and Sunday, but they have incredible finds and lots of vegan options for people like me who eat a plant-based diet.

How did you get started shopping at Buffalo Exchange?

My wife and I travel extensively within the states and we stumbled upon our very first Buffalo Exchange in Chicago. We have visited 13 locations so far. We realized that Buffalo Exchange is always located in the coolest areas of town, so we began planning our trips based on where the stores are located. Our process now is to land, eat and head straight to the nearest Buffalo, where we ask the friendly employees for their “go-to” local spots. They usually write out a list for us and that’s what we do on our trip.

Why do you like to shop resale? What do you love about Buffalo Exchange in particular?

The story behind the items. I love to look at the tags and imagine what era the item came from and the life of the person who wore it. At Buffalo Exchange, I love the consistency of the shopping experience. Every time I walk into a Buffalo Exchange, I find something to buy, even if it’s just a pair of sunglasses, which I make sure to purchase every time I go. The selection never disappoints. Every store I’ve visited has excellent customer service.

Do you have any tips for shopping resale?

When I shop, I don’t look for size unless it’s shoes. I usually just walk around the entire store and look for prints and textures that catch my eye. You’d be surprised how many items I’ve purchased that may not be my size but fit perfectly when I try them on.

How would you describe your personal style? How does Buffalo Exchange fit into that?

A friend recently told me that my style is vibrant.

Others have told me that they love how I reinvent myself daily. Every morning, I just pick what feels right from my closet. I don’t give it much thought – I trust myself and go with it. Sometimes, I wear something wide and baggy; other times, I channel my inner celebrity. It really depends on my mood. Usually I ask myself, “Would Solange wear this?” If the answer is yes, I take it from there. Buffalo Exchange gives my style vintage flair with a modern twist and one-of-a-kind pieces. I love that I’ll never run into someone wearing the exact same outfit.

Do you have a favorite Buffalo Exchange find?

It’s so hard to choose, but if I had to pick, I would say this jacket I found at the Buffalo Exchange in Denver that has a whole scene of people and vibrant colors painted on it. We were tight on time and I was only able to try on one thing. I grabbed the jacket and it fit like a glove. Something about the jacket made me think that the person who owned it must have been really fun and adventurous. I loved imagining the original owner’s style and wondering if we might have been friends. After all, we share a similar appreciation for unique pieces!

What style or life advice do you have for our readers?

Whatever it is you want to do, just get started. Running my own website and podcast has involved a lot of ups and downs, but I’m grateful for the roller coaster ride because it means I’m doing something I’m passionate about. Keep a grateful heart, stay consistent, put love into everything you do and don’t stop.

Want to know more? Tune into Portilla’s #MeetThemMondays series, a bi-monthly podcast that highlights creatives and community builders in South Florida. Then, visit the newest member of the Buffalo Exchange herd – our Hollywood, Florida store – to put her resale shopping tips into practice. Don’t miss our Grand Opening Celebration on Saturday, June 10. Enjoy free food, music and giveaways while you shop!


All photos by Debbie A. Photography