When I was growing up, shopping at a thrift store carried shame. It meant you were poor. That you couldn’t afford new things. That you had to wear someone else’s castoffs. In a word–ewwwww.
Sadly for me that stigma clung to thrift stores for a long, long time.
Thankfully I eventually came to appreciate shopping at the humble thrift store–not only for my vintage business but also for personal purchases. My favorite black leather jacket, which fits me perfectly and is coveted by my youngest daughter, was bought at a thrift store for $13. And I have a number of cool leather purses and scarves bought for a song.
And times have changed. Today shopping at a thrift store is considered eco-friendly, smart, economical, trendy. Even celebs are spotted at thrift stores. Actress Drew Barrymore wore this thrift store dress on the red carpet.
But not all thrift stores are created equal. They receive different types of goods and levels of quality and quantity. Pricing and management policies vary widely. Some now also have an online storefront.
Here are some of the thrift stores I’ve visited…
The Salvation Army in my home town back east is always, always, always filled with low-quality stuff. I rarely find anything worth buying. This vintage math game was a surprising find.
I got lucky once in the St. Vincent de Paul a few towns down the road from me. The store is now closed and frankly I’m not surprised. In later years they had raised their prices significantly and the better quality home goods/vintage items were priced at eBay retail prices. I had stopped going a long time ago.
Once in a rare while I go to Thrift Center, a store about 15 miles away. It’s a run-down store and generally doesn’t have the quality of home goods I’m looking for. Not worth the drive to come away empty handed so I only go if I’m in the area.
Now my neighborhood thrift store, a Goodwill, is super small and I sometimes leave empty handed, but dang I have found some amazing things there. It has remained a consistent profit maker for me for nine years. This Kosta Boda Swedish “Brain” glass piece by glassmaker Bertil Vallien is one of my more unusual recent good finds.
I do drop in on two American Cancer boutique thrift stores, which as you can imagine have great items, but you have to be a pretty savvy shopper or catch them on sale day to make the prices work as a reseller. This older hand-carved alabaster urn was one of my rare good finds.
The more you go to a thrift store, but more you will get a sense of their typical merchandise. There are thrift stores that I rarely visit now because the quality isn’t there or the good items are priced too high. And of course the more you go, the greater your chance of finding something amazing.
Honestly I’m surprised more folks don’t shop at thrift stores, but I have to be glad too–more for me (and you) to find!
Would love to hear about your favorite thrift stores and fabulous finds.
Interesting post! My mother and I used to go to Goodwill when I was growing up, in the 60s and early 70s. I later asked her if we “had” to or for the treasure hunt and fun. She said “both.” I still have a nice little Mexican tile-topped table as my bedside table. My own kids had SO many toys and clothes (the girl) because of thrift stores and garage sales. Now I go at least weekly. The best for what I collect is St. Vincent de Paul. The Goodwill in town is terrible, but the one in the next town over is really good. Goodwill prices are so high the other day I wondered when it got so I couldn’t afford them! Old t-shirts (for my gardening) are $4.99. St. Vincent is pricing what things are “worth” and noting on the tags their age and what eBay asks. My Salvation Army is very expensive too. All of them charge too much for used paperback books. I think they all may be trying to make up for the months they were closed due to the pandemic, and their stock is low. A few of my favorite original paintings are from thrift stores, some worth quite a bit, nothing that would make it worth selling though! A few hundred.
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Lisa thanks for sharing your thrift store experiences. It’s interesting how stores in the same area can vary so widely in pricing. I love that you use a Mexican tile table as a nightstand!
All the best, Karen
That’s something even my mother felt when we immigrated even though we came from a country that most definitely didn’t have those stores. It passed to me for a long time!
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