Trash to Treasure
And everything in between—including a few laughs—is what makes this thrift shop goddess a beacon of style.
by Amy Kates Published March 16, 2010 at 08:46 AM
Joanna Geroski has always had her fabulously outfitted fingers in some kind of something.
She was a receptionist, a sales assistant, a human resources guru, a showroom gal at Cole Hahn and the face behind a maternity fitness line and a roommate service.
Add to that a stint managing the café at the Rock Manor Golf Course, and you’ve got a woman who did everything she could to ignore the obvious: She belonged in retail.
“I’ve loved resale and thrifting for years,” she says. “Growing up in Manhattan, I lived in a nice apartment building, and people were always throwing stuff out in the Dumpsters.”
Other peoples’ trash turned into her treasures—“fur coats, bags from Saks, marble countertops, even art,” she says.
The cosmos shifted when she met her husband, Andrew, a fellow thrifting junkie. It was a match made in tiki-tchotchke heaven. “You should see our house,” she says. “We have tons of Polynesian tiki items, from the ’30s to the ’60s.”
Geroski hit her stride at Eclectica, her hodgepodge store of affordable, hip, fresh decor and trinkets in the heart of Bellefonte. She peppers in resale finds when she can, like vintage mirrors or furniture, which she finds at auctions, market or “if I’m just driving down the road and see a yard sale,” she says with a laugh.
“People are more practical these days,” she says. “My husband always says I’m too cheap with his money, but I’d rather buy a lot of things I love instead of one huge, expensive thing.”
It’s easy to find things you love at Eclectica. And it’s that kind of neighborhood store where everyone coming and going says hello. The unimposing shack on Brandywine Boulevard caters to an interesting crowd.
“I have 6- and 8-year-olds come in, which is bizzaro,” she says. “They love the jewelry. But then I have 70-year-olds come in. I try to buy with all my customers in mind.”
Geroski admits it’s hard to be unique in her biz. “There’s a lot of overlap with vendors. It makes it hard to compete,” she says. “So we try to be unique in the way we make customers feel. The jams are always on at Eclectica. It sets a mood, sets a moment. We’ve got great warm colors. If someone comes in and doesn’t buy something, but they walk out feeling better, then that’s what matters.”
So it’s the little touches that matter to Geroski, and she carries that over in her style.
“Look, I grew up in the ’80s in Manhattan,” she says. “So it’s all about black. Look at Vera Wang. She’s sitting there telling me I should be wearing pinks and yellows, and what is she wearing? Black!”
She keeps her threads to a minimum so she can play up her love of jewelry.
“Everyone who comes in says something about my rings,” she says. Big, chunky, mismatched pieces are her forte. “I’m not the less-is-more kind of gal. But I do want to feel comfortable in my own skin.”
She pulls at the Hello Kitty pendant that hangs at her neck. “Look at me, wearing Hello Kitty. I mean, Hello Kitty!” she says. “I even wear Hello Kitty Band-Aids. People might think it’s weird, but it makes me laugh, so I wear it.”
If you’ve got a minute, and you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and chat with Geroski. At the very least, you’ll walk away with a smile. And that’s free.