Beatnik Betty’s: Fitting the “U” into “unique”

It may be too early for spring cleaning in your closet, but the fall months have passed, and we Lawrentians have entered Winter Term. With temperatures dropping, this time of year means wardrobe changes from pullovers to windbreakers or from Converse to boots. Downtown Appleton is no stranger to clothing shops that cater to the change in season, or more broadly, the customer’s individual need, but one outfitter in particular stands out in that category; Beatnik Betty’s Resale Butik (more commonly known as just Beatnik Betty’s).  

Beatnik Betty’s story began with Monika Austin, who has lived in Appleton since 1998. She always knew she wanted to one day open a business in the Appleton area because “it had a small-town feel, but it had 24-hour gas stations” but could not figure out what she wanted to do. Nothing matched her “vision” until she noticed Appleton’s need for a resale store. Being a lover of thrifting and fashion herself, she quickly devised her plan to open one on the Avenue.  

“Bohemian,” “raw” and even “junkyard” were the adjectives Austin put to her store, and she needed a name to match the aesthetic. A few thesaurus trips later and she had chosen ‘beatnik’ to accentuate the alternative nature of her shop and ‘Betty’ from the 80’s West Coast slang term to refer to an attractive woman or surfer girl. Thus, she settled on Beatnik Betty’s.  

Inside Beatnik Betty’s. Photo by Blair Vandehey.

Naturally, Beatnik Betty’s sports upcycled clothing for every season (you heard me, Lawrence, every season) that Austin herself works to curate, being a self-taught seamstress. This practice goes far beyond her love of fashion; one of her favorite things about thrifting was the feeling of originality that it brought when she wore something that no one else did. To share that sense of uniqueness with others, she welcomes people into her store who want to style an article of clothing but may not know how or need inspiration. She said she is more than happy to sit down and talk about what possibilities there are to really make the garment ‘yours.’  

Austin’s goal was to offer “more than resale” in her shop, and she ended up doing just that; in addition to one-of-a-kind clothing, one can choose from a variety of offbeat accessories, counterculture-esque stickers, handmade soaps, and more odds and ends that take the shop beyond a typical resale boutique.  

Aside from the material product offerings, Austin’s store promotes a number of community-driven services on the side. Beatnik Betty’s offers help to new crafters who want to break into the resale business. Knowing how to value inventory or promote the business can be a struggle for first-time sellers, and Austin knows that feeling firsthand. To alleviate some of the pressure square one can bring, she is committed to being a “first step” for newcomers in the business.  

Another service that Beatnik Betty’s provides is buying all kinds of old garments from guests. Exchanging clothes for money is a testament to the environmental policy of the store. To avoid waste as much as she can, Austin donates clothing articles to different organizations. Not only does this keep them out of the landfills, but it also benefits a community cause.  

On the subject, ‘community’ is at the center of Beatnik Betty’s values. Proudly posted on the window are stickers that indicate the store is a welcoming place to members of the LGBTQ+ community and other historically oppressed groups. Austin even expressed her dismay that she even had to put them up since she believes that everyone should be welcome not only in her store, but everywhere in Downtown Appleton and beyond regardless of their identity.  

Her commitment to the people around her does not stop there (we are only getting to the best part). Us Lawrentians are included in the Beatnik Betty’s community in a special way; with presentation of a valid ID, we are entitled to fifteen percent off our purchases. Not only do we get an insider discount, but she also encourages us to stop by and drop off some old clothes in exchange for money. What better way than to be a part of ‘Sustainable Lawrence’ than keeping clothes out of the landfills and making some cash in the meantime? No matter if you are looking to create a fashion statement this Winter Term with a stylish new jacket, sell your old clothes for a good cause, or get the inside scoop on how to bring out the ‘you’ in your look, Beatnik Betty’s is always just a block away from the west side of campus for you.