Kerstin Block is the founder and president of Buffalo Exchange, a nationwide chain of resale clothing stores. She and her husband Spencer started the company in 1974 in Tucson, AZ, where it is still headquartered. Kerstin and her daughter Rebecca continue to own and run Buffalo Exchange today.
Kerstin grew up in Sweden and came to the University of Arizona on a scholarship in 1960. A lover of thrift stores and swap meets, she decided to open a unique kind of clothing store where people could buy, sell, and trade used clothing. With Buffalo Exchange, Kerstin wanted to reverse the stigma of resale clothing by selecting only quality, fashionable items in a clean, fun store with a boutique atmosphere. The first location was a simple 450 square foot space with clothing racks made of old bicycle rims, but the concept caught on. Today Buffalo Exchange has 47 stores in 17 states.
Some Awards and Honors Kerstin has received include:
- Southern Arizona Smart Inspiring Enterprise, Arizona Small Business Association, 2007
- Thomas R. Brown Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award, 2009
- Regional Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young, 2009
- ATHENA Leadership Award finalist, ATHENA International, 2010
Kerstin has been an active member of NARTS: The Association of Resale Professionals since the mid-1980s, presenting at annual conferences on topics such as company philanthropy, how to set up and renovate stores, and how to grow your own business.
In 2007 Kerstin unveiled the Spencer Block Memorial Scholarship for Achievement in Retail Entrepreneurship at the University of Arizona’s Terry Lundgren Center for Retailing, ensuring that innovative business, like Buffalo Exchange itself, will carry on well into the future.
The first Buffalo Exchange opened in 1974 in Tucson, Arizona by Kerstin and Spencer Block. To our knowledge, this was the very first store that bought, sold, traded and took clothing items and accessories on consignment. Kerstin, being Swedish, thought the word 'Buffalo' was very American. And since the store was going to be an 'Exchange,' the store's name was born. The store was in a 450 square foot space that had been an old union office on a side street near the University of Arizona. Kerstin's love of fashion and thrill in finding a bargain combined to create the company that now has 45 stores and 3 franchises in 17 states, with $81.6 million a year in revenue (as of Dec 2012). Buffalo Exchange is an independent and privately held company and the founders manage the day-to-day business. Kerstin and her daughter Rebecca still own and run Buffalo Exchange out of Tucson.