The Thrift Zone chain was started by Johnny and Camille Lewis in 1934. Since the store was very successful, the Lewis' decided to open two more Thrift Zones (one in Chicago and one in Detroit), and they would be far from the original location of its California location. However, in 1952, both of the new locations closed due to failure. The store stayed in its original location, and the Lewis' swore that they would never open another Thrift Zone again. Johnny Lewis died in 1962. Shortly after his death in 1965, Camille sold the business to Al T. Newspawn. Camille was killed in a car crash in 1967. In 1984, Newspawn sold the business off to his friend's nephew, Jack Willston, who managed the store actively.
Currently, the CEO is Jack Willston, and he, in order to give the store a "family-run feel" only hired five employees, four of them being clerks. Joe Kanoki, Jed Brently, Jean Lorris, Betty Granmore, and stocker Benny Gregory all made the cut to get into the store. The employees each had to have some connection to the original Lewis family from the early 30s. Willston was once called "discriminating" by the Crosstown Review, but claims were removed due to the fact he was not being discriminating to any particular gender, race, or belief.