Columns » Employee of the Week

Elias Comfort McConnell

Recycler
Value Village

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Summer's almost officially here, but there's still time to do your spring cleaning. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, spring cleaning requires going through your closets and filling trash bags with clothes you're tired of, then trading 'em in for fresh new duds at one of Portland's fabulous thrift stores, like the über-groovy Value Village, where this writer recently found a summery pastel argyle sweater, a high-waisted black-and-white polka dot skirt, and a reversible purple sundress. If you're lucky (and you're at the Hollywood location), you might just catch a glimpse of budding film star Elias McConnell, who separates the trash from the treasures at Value Village between photo shoots and press junkets. Born and raised in Portland, Elias was "discovered" at age 16 by Gus Van Sant, who based a character in Elephant (that of the photographer) on him. Since then Elias has been busy modeling for the likes of Mario Testino and Christian Dior, and appeared in numerous films. He is featured in the "Young Hollywood" issue of Nylon magazine (not Hollywood neighborhood... the other Hollywood) and stars alongside friend Marianne Faithfull in Paris, je t'aime, a collection of love stories filmed by over 20 different directors (McConnell appears in Van Sant's short).

How'd you get into this line of work?

I've always loved Value Village. I shopped there as a kid. It's better than Goodwill, and it's such a good cause. It's practically a nonprofit organization.

Lots of Portland hipsters shop at Value Village. Have you noticed any spring trends?

Yes. Straw hats. I'm totally into straw hats.

What's the best part of the job?

Working the forklift and unloading the trucks, when I get to talk trash with the drivers.

Worst part of the job?

The heavy lifting. On average I lift around 6,000 pounds a day.

What's the absolute must thing to look for at Value Village? Christmas sweaters?

Halloween items. We're the biggest Halloween supplier. It's so busy in October nobody's allowed to take time off.

I understand there are awesome sales.

Yes! Every holiday we have a huge 50-percent-off sale. Everything in the store, including furniture, is 50 percent off. Aside from that, every Monday is Senior Day, when people over 55 get 40 percent off. Tuesday is 99-cent day. The rest of the week there's always a color tag that's 50 percent off. There's always a sale.

I imagine it's hard not to blow your paycheck.

Yeah, whenever there are cameras I buy them. And anything argyle.

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