Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

The Ithaca Commons on March 1 2021, where Trader K's called home for the last 26 years.

February 16, 2022

Local Secondhand Trader K’s to Close After 26 Years in Business

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Opened in 1996 as Ithaca’s first curated secondhand store, Trader K’s owners Karen and Jay Sciarabba have decided to close their clothing shop after 26 years in business. 

The Sciarabbas opened the store after taking inspiration from Buffalo Exchange, a secondhand trade store that Karen frequented during winter trips to Arizona. Karen wished to successfully replicate the affordable secondhand clothing model in Ithaca. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and several extensions of the store, Trader K’s has kept its original business standards, curating high quality and inexpensive pieces. The store was located on the East end of the Ithaca Commons for its first 10 years before moving to 119 East State Street.

Jay Sciarabba expressed his frustration with the changing construction and parking projects in Ithaca Commons, such as the Green Street garage projects.

“Ithaca is growing too fast; it’s hurting the businesses,” Sciarabba said. “It’s tough for mom and pop businesses to make it as it is. Not being able to park or having too expensive parking is just another negative. It pushes people away.” 

In recent months, Ithaca has seen an increase in new businesses such as Middle Eastern restaurant Lev Kitchen and the in-construction Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Sciarabba expressed appreciation for Trader K’s loyal customers and community support.

“We’ve had adults come in that we clothed as babies,” Sciarabba said. “Now they’re having their own kids. 26 years, we went from generation to generation.” 

Jay Sciarabba also recalled donating clothing over the years to a variety of Cornell University and Ithaca College fashion shows and theater productions. Trader K’s has participated in Cornell freshman orientation events in the past centered around environmentally friendly clothing.  

Cornell students shared their regret after hearing that Trader K’s would be closing. Julianna Castlegrant ’24 has visited Trader K’s four times since she began at Cornell.

“I like trying all thrift stores, so hearing that one closed is upsetting in general,” Castlegrant said. “I liked Trader K because it was one of the easier thrift stores to get to in Ithaca, especially for students like me who don’t have a car on campus yet. I’m sad to see it go.”

The Sciarabbas will retire from retail but will remain the landlords of several properties in downtown Ithaca, including Trader K’s former building. 

Jay Sciarabba explained that Trader K’s is in a liquidation stage, holding 30 percent off sales and even private shopping parties for groups of 10 or more customers. All products must be sold before the store closes in April.