Small Business Startup: The Rift Thrift

Brian James, owner of The Rift Thrift stands in front of his store located in downtown Cape Vincent.

 For a local writer and entrepreneur, who has a passion for community, music and travel, it was an easy decision to start a local thrift shop that incorporates all his passions into one place.   

     Brian James, publisher, and writer of a local community-based newspaper The Rift, began The Rift Thrift in 2018 as a means of supporting his publication. The Rift Thrift, a local specialty niche thrift shop located in downtown Cape Vincent, is a second-hand store with a vintage flair. Customers can find different types of ‘niche’ products like yoga wear, sports jersey’s, skateboarding items, local attire from area organizations and businesses and Brian enthusiastically says that he has worked to find some band T-shirt’s from his travels across the country.  

     “With the publication, it wasn’t the most profitable business when you are starting out,” said Brian. “I had been reading other stories about magazines and publications and how sometimes they have a secondary business to support those publications. That is where the idea came from. One day I was cruising through Venice Beach and I noticed that all the locals had a little business on their front porch, which I had in Clayton. So, the next day I went and visited those stores and found a Bob Marley t-shirt for a buck, so I thrifted all the way back from California to here and that’s how I started my inventory.”  

     The Rift Thrift originally started off in Clayton, but after the building was sold at the end of the 2018 summer tourism season, Brian decided that he wasn’t willing to let that stop his goals of having the store be successful, so he searched for a new location, which he soon found in Cape Vincent.  

     “The Cape Vincent Brewery used to be located in this storefront,” said Brian. “When they moved across the street into the old Aubrey’s restaurant, I thought this would be absolutely perfect!”  

     Brian says that the local community has been wonderful to him as he began setting up the new store and that it has been a 100 percent positive experience so far.  

     “The community is happy that the space is not vacant and that there is a ‘cool’ new store in town. The local Cape Vincent residents have come back multiple times and say that they are happy to see this kind of store in town,” he said.   

     But it’s not only the locals that have been supporting The Rift Thrift. Located just off the Cape Vincent Ferry which brings families and visitors from neighboring Canada, Brian says that he has been busy with people coming into the store from all over the world.   

     “This week I had people from California, Austin Texas and Canada,” he said.   

     Over the next few years, Brian says that he would like to be more set up in a location that isn’t so dependent on the tourism season; he would like to operate year-round. In the meantime, Brian has been working with art instructors in the village to set up up-cycling classes for area youth and other educational and fun activities for families to do even throughout the winter months.     

~Holly Boname