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Young Utah entrepreneurs go viral with mobile thrift shop

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Brynn Carnesecca | Lehi Free Press 

Many thrift stores dot Utah Valley, but none are quite like Not A Thrift Store. The shop isn’t the typical storefront experience. Instead, the store is built inside a yellow school bus and filled to the brim with unique vintage and secondhand finds. 

The store started in 2023 with 16-year-old Kaysen Stevens from Spanish Fork. Looking for a unique place to hang out with his buddies, Kaysen set his eye on purchasing a bus he could eventually convert to a rental space. But, with limited funds and experience, he decided to buy a non-mobile bus and sell some clothes from his closet. Kaysen listed the items on social media and began advertising the bus-shopping experience. With just a few posts, his side hustle exploded on Instagram. 

“One day, there were tons of people outside the house,” explained Trae Stevens, Kaysen’s older brother. “There was a huge line going outside to the bus sitting in the backyard.” 

Although the popularity of the bus was steady, Kaysen decided to begin holding sales. Enter co-founder Collin McLaughlin, who quickly jumped at the opportunity to get involved. 

“I saw how much potential it had,” McLaughlin said. He began running the bus and maintaining sales for over two months. With the massive buzz generated by the makeshift store, neighbors became frustrated about the bus’s popularity. 

“That lasted for a couple of weeks until the cops showed up and shut us down because of the amount of people,” Trae said. 

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Even though the store was short-lived, the co-founders knew they had struck gold. The bus thrift store combination was the perfect idea to launch. With the genius idea, the friends decided in November 2023 that they couldn’t keep the shop running out of the backyard.

“I was running around trying to find places to tow the bus to,” McLaughlin laughed. “Kaysen decided we needed to buy a new bus.” 

The friends soon decided to bring on Kaysen’s videographer brother, Trae, to manage the social media accounts and help find and drive the new mobile bus. Thanks to Trae’s social media skills, the affectionately named Not A Thrift Store (NATS) gained massive popularity. Building on their previous social media success, the newest videos received over two million views. The three friends had “broken the internet” and were ready to take the bus on the road. 

The bus began touring different cities around Utah with “Not A Thrift Store” painted on the side. It was a massive hit met with rave reactions. 

“The first time that really blew our minds was when we took a tour down to Cedar City and St. George,” Trae said. “There were hundreds and hundreds of people. As soon as we pulled the bus into the parking lot, there were kids fighting to get to the front of the line and running out of their cars.” Trae carefully maneuvered the bus through the swarm, and they opened for business. 

Whenever NATS hosts an event, the trio does their best to build off the crowd’s energy and make the shopping visit an unforgettable experience. 

“At the big events, there is such a hype energy,” McLaughlin said. “Everybody is excited and wants to be first in line.” 

During the events, the founders encourage pictures, dancing and shopping. “We will literally be standing on top of the bus talking to people through a megaphone,” Trae explained. 

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In addition to the Gen Z fans, the trio has inspired a new generation of youth to create their own businesses. “A lot of kids come up to us and say things like, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to do something like this. You guys are so inspiring,’” McLaughlin said. 

McLaughlin is constantly making deals and trying to break into the tricky thrifting industry to keep the bus full of trendy and vintage items consistently. 

“Getting vintage clothes is way different than any other business,” McLaughlin said. “It’s hard to find where people get their clothes in this community because it can be pretty secretive.”

NATS works tirelessly to ensure every item is unique, vintage and authentic. Connections have been key in keeping the bus stocked and on-trend. NATS also buys individual items from bus visitors and through direct messages. 

Today, the bus is exploding on social media and touring Utah’s surrounding states. The entrepreneurs, all now between 18 and 23, carry an incredible passion for their work. “It’s pretty crazy watching it grow from a couple hundred viewers to what it is now,” McLaughlin expressed. The team hopes to expand soon with another bus and host additional events both in and out of Utah. 

NATS will be touring Colorado from May 13-20, but the team plans to return to Utah. For more information and to know when the bus will return, follow NATS on Instagram and TikTok @notathriftstoree or visit notathriftstoree.myshopify.com.  The team expressed that they tour based on requests, and comments for certain cities can greatly influence the tour schedule. 

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