TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Florida company has created a thrift shopping tourist phenomenon in the state.
“The Happy Thrifter” publishes an annual “Happy Thrifter Retail Shopping Guide” and offers Happy Thrifter Mystery Resale Shopping Bus Tours, leaving from its headquarters in Venice.
The bus tours travel to multiple locations in the Tampa Bay area, including Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton, Sun City Center, Ruskin, Palmetto and Venice.
The tours began in 2018, and the initial seven tour areas have now expanded to 17.
“Our ‘tour-ists’ are telling us that visiting thrift and resale stores is on their bucket list of things to do in Southwest Florida,” said Happy Thrifter founder and owner Patti Clark.
Each bus tour features a catered lunch, door prizes, raffles and more on a luxury motor coach. Tickets are $69. The shop locations, six stores on each tour, are not revealed until Clark’s customers, nicknamed “Resale Queens,” are on the bus.
Currently, tours for 2023 across the multiple locations are available to be booked on select dates, and two holiday tours, as well as a new year celebration tour for 2023, can be booked as well.
The first guide for thrifters to plan their own tours and thrift shop visits was published in 2018.
The Happy Thrifter’s thrifty retail shopping guides can be found online. Two versions of the guide with multiple locations are available. They can also be found at area visitor racks, airports, welcome centers and Happy Thrifter merchants.
“More than 400 guides a month are mailed to people who want to add a resale adventure to their bucket list of things to do during their stay here,” Clark said.
Thrifter merchants support various nonprofit organizations. For example, the Suncoast Hospice Thrift Store in St. Petersburg benefits individuals and families in need of hospice care.
Clark added up the amount the tours brought to local communities in 23 tours before the coronavirus pandemic.
The amount exceeded $218,000.
“You can’t put a price on that kind of community service,” she said.