Joy springs from 40 years of Buffalo Exchange photos

2014-03-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-03T12:19:28Z Joy springs from 40 years of Buffalo Exchange photosBy Johanna Willett Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

At Buffalo Exchange, fashion tells a story.

That’s where company archivist and resource librarian Inara Edrington comes in.

She knows about the colorful dressing room curtains from the late-1980s/early-1990s that now hang in the administrative office. Ask her about old ads or the thousands of photos saved throughout the years, both digitally and on film.

This month, Buffalo Exchange is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Husband and wife team Kerstin and the late Spencer Block opened the first Buffalo Exchange in 1974 on Warren Avenue.

“People like to see old photos, and it’s just fun,” Edrington, 43, says. “Especially with fashion, you can see over the decades how it has changed.”

She sees trends emerge in photographs from the 1970s and 1980s — and then again in current social media as styles cycle back. Edrington has sifted through thousands of photographs now organized in hardcover binders and digital folders.

“You look at the photos, and you see everybody is smiling,” Edrington says. “Everybody is very up, very happy, very into fashion. They’re always trying on outfits and posing.”

That was new for Edrington, who had spent 10 years as an archivist for the National Parks Service. Alone in a room for most of the day, she discovered her love of digging through history. In those days, workplace wardrobe did not snag as much of her attention as it does now.

“Looking at old photos and getting to know the people behind those photos was just fun,” Edrington says of stories she pieced together from archives. “You get their papers and photos and you get to learn by reading and seeing their photos. The same thing happens here when you see photos in the store.”

Edrington shifted gears after responding to Spencer Block’s newspaper ad for a personal historian. She sifted through family photos and genealogies and organized his writings into a poetry book and a business primer, “The Way of the Buffalo: A Business Primer & Fashion Love Song.”

After Spencer Block died in 2009, she started working for Buffalo Exchange.

Her relationship to the store has changed — from her early shopping days at Buffalo Exchange as a 12-year-old to her “punk” high school phase of prowling the store for band T-shirts. Today, as an employee, she calls her style “pseudo-Bohemian.”

“I feel more comfortable,” Edrington says. “People don’t judge you so much and you can experiment with what you’re wearing.”

Contact reporter Johanna Willett at jwillett@azstarnet.com or 573-4357.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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