Sacramento native unites love of books and thrifting under one roof


Chanelle Muerong

Passion Bailey, co-owner of Hidden Gems Thrift Store, poses for a photo behind the counter Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. The store is located Florin Square, which acts as a hub for Black-owned businesses.

Chanelle Muerong

Located in the corner of a shopping center on Florin Road is a small thrift shop that looks more like a boutique than anything else. Behind the counter, you would find Passion Bailey, the co-owner of the Hidden Gems thrift store, greeting as you walk in.

Bailey was born and raised in Sacramento by her mother who cleaned houses. Growing up, her mother shopped at all the local thrift stores and that’s how Bailey said she developed her love for books.

Growing up, Bailey used reading and writing as therapy in troubled times, according to the ‘About’ page on the Hidden Gems website. 

“This business, it’s a passion, and books are my world,” Bailey said. “I grew up in Sacramento, in the low-income neighborhood, so education wasn’t as huge in our family, which it should have been. My mom would go to the thrift store when I was a kid and thrift stores were like, not cool. Needless to say, my mom would drag me there. I didn’t want the toys, so I found books.”

According to Bailey, she discovered a whole new world through the books she found. 

“I didn’t really necessarily love to read all the books, I just loved to collect them,” Bailey said. 

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Passion Bailey sets up Hidden Gems more like a boutique rather than a thrift store, and the items are handpicked by Bailey herself. The building was previously used as a church before Bailey bought it in 2019. (Chanelle Muerong)

When she was younger she often heard stories of her late grandmother bonding with her mother through thrifting. Old books and thrifting were something special to each of them, and with the Hidden Gems thrift store, Bailey found a way to bring those two passions together. Bailey described it as coming back full circle.

Hidden Gems is set up more like a boutique rather than a thrift store, with the clothes hung on racks and items of similar stature displayed neatly on shelves. The items are handpicked by Bailey herself and are more or less switched out based on trends.

According to Bailey, Florin Square, where Hidden Gems is located, acts as a hub for Black-owned businesses. It previously started off with the African Market Place that has been going on for over seven years. Every first and third Saturday, vendors started opening stores inside the building. The building where Hidden Gems now stands used to be a church, according to Bailey.  

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Bailey and her business partner Berry Accius came together through similar values and opened Hidden Gems with a few goals in mind.

The two met when Bailey donated books to Accius’ organization, Voice of the Youth (VOY), a non-profit organization which provides mentorship to youth and adults. Accius’ want for mentoring the younger generation and providing opportunities for them was one of the things that made Bailey interested in him as a business partner in the first place.

RELATED: PODCAST SPOTLIGHT: Voice of Youth founder Berry Accius discusses activism, police defunding

Hidden Gems opened in April 2019, not even a year before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like most people, Bailey was scared. 

“They allowed us to open up, but it was still a struggle to get back going,” Bailey said. “We were able to get one of the loans that helped us out a little bit. But you know, it was still tough. We’re starting to take in some donations again.”

The donations are cleaned with a special cleaning solution before being presented on display. Items like underwear and toys are not accepted, according to Bailey. 

You have to go through a lot of different struggles and you have to give a lot in the beginning before you can start taking.

— Passion Bailey

Bailey’s goals include expanding the small shop and opening up other locations in other cities. Bailey explained that she herself wanted to stay at her current location because of the significance of the Black-owned businesses surrounding her thrift shop and the opportunity to give back to her community. 

“I hope that by coming here, you’ll find a book that inspires someone to read,” Bailey said. “I would like to bring awareness to environmentally friendly thrifting, and how the landfills are getting filled up, so recycling through thrifting is very important. And I want people to know that you can look good on a budget.”

Tina Marie Williams, who described herself a veteran thrift shopper, said that everything that she owns has come from thrift stores. 

“You can always find good things from thrift stores,” Williams said while waiting in line to shop. “The best thing I’ve found right here, at this location, in this exact store, was a pair of Coach shoes, and it was $40.”

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Different styles of clothing can be found on racks inside of Hidden Gems Thrift Store on Feb. 6, 2021. The shop is located at 2245 Florin Rd in Sacramento. (Chanelle Muerong)

Bailey also stressed that it’s important to support Black-owned businesses.

“I’ve never seen a community like this, where it’s Black entrepreneurs trying to like, y’know,” said Bailey, trailing off.  “And for Black people to own businesses. It shows that you can be empowered and show their children that they can do this too. That’s a different level of confidence that you give to the youth.”

Bailey then continued to speak about how it’s not easy starting and owning your own business. 

“It’s a lot of work,” Bailey said. “Yeah, you have to go through a lot of different struggles and you have to give a lot in the beginning before you can start taking.” 

One thing that keeps Bailey going is to see young people in the store enjoying her products. She said that she feels like she’s doing something right when she sees that. 

Ellen Johnson, a Sacramento resident and former VP of Bailey’s book club, the Crystal Bowl Book Club, met Bailey back in 2012 and is now a store regular

“The best things I’ve found in the store are the books,” said Johnson. “There’s a lot of Black books, and there’s books that would normally cost $40 anywhere else but I found them for $1 here.” 

Bailey hopes that the customers feel comfortable when they come into the store. 

Customer relationships are important to Bailey, and she wants people to feel welcome and comfortable enough to do their own thing.

“She’s really attentive to customers, even when I’m in there,” said Johnson. “She’s always telling them about the sales they’re having or any new donations they’ll be getting. Very warm and welcome.”