By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Apr 05, 2009 at 11:24 AM

Walking into Rethreads, 2943 N. Humboldt Blvd., you'd never guess it was a resale shop. Its walls splashed with warm, vibrant hues and its displays carefully detailed in shabby chic design, it embodies the independent, creative flair of a boutique.

The thing is, it's got the selection of a department store -- and at a fraction of the price.

The incredibly well-designed used clothing store for men and women is the latest evolution of the 2007 Riverwest development flagshipped by Alterra's roasting and café headquarters.

The Humboldt facility was honored as the "Best Environmentally Friendly Project" by the Business Journal Real Estate Award and as a retailer, Re-threads fits cohesively into this theme. The store buys, sells and trades strictly in recycled fashion.

Only, it's not a thrift store.

Owner Beret Isaacson gets 100 percent of her inventory from her customers -- members of the community looking to sell or trade unwanted items that are still in good shape, and in good fashion.

It's really a great system; bring in your extra clothing and if accepted, you have a choice: receive 35 percent of the sale price (what Re-threads sells it for in the store) in cash on the spot or get 50 percent for in-store trade. You can use it that day, but you don't have to. Your coupon never expires.

"It's something that people get into doing," says Isaacson, who got the idea for the store from working in similar ones in other cities. "People who have free time or want extra cash, they get to know how we buy, get an idea of how we price and they'll scour the thrift stores and bring it all here to us."

Sounds like a pretty efficient system.

Nothing in the store is ratty, torn, dirty or full of holes and zillions of familiar and favorite name brands are represented. The fashion is current -- save for a small but savvy collection of wearable vintage items -- and everything is amazingly affordable.

A J. Crew T-shirt might be priced at $6. Miss Sixty and Citizens of Humanity jeans range from $17.50 to $35. Although the store also carries pre-owned shoes, bags, hats, belts, scarves and other accessories, Isaacson hopes to acquire a line of new merchandise made by local artists. For now you'll find wallets and magnets from Milwaukee's Rosiebird.

"I think I can get everything I want without having to leave Milwaukee. I don't want anything made in China."

She believes in the power of a sustainable, local economy. It's really quite simple: when the store can buy it for less, they can sell it for less. Everybody wins. 

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”