Thrift Store Change Can be Good

A relocating thrift store can yield lower prices

Thrift stores that are stagnant, with merchandise that sits on racks for days or weeks, are not where you want to be shopping. The best thrift stores are those that have rapidly changing merchandise – and lots of it!

Today I learned that my favorite thrift store will be moving by year-end. Since it’s not in the most convenient location for me, the move could be good news, right? Yes and no.

The store will be relocating a couple miles away, which isn’t far, but it’s two more miles away from my house, so I’m not jumping for joy at the prospect of traveling even farther to shop. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that relocation – change – means that there will soon be clearance sales occurring to help move some of the existing merchandise. Rather than having to load it up and truck it to the new store, the manager has decided to drop prices first. This is music to my ears, especially since there is an upholstered chair I’ve been eyeing. With a markdown, I will be happy to commit to buy it.

I bring this up because I only found out about the impending move by asking if the furniture might soon be going on sale. That simple question yielded me much more useful information than I expected. So don’t be afraid to ask if the manager “can do better” on the price of an item, or if a sale may be coming up soon. You never know what else you may learn that can save you even more money!


Thrifting in Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Garment District is part thrift store, part costume shop

After hearing my MIT friends in college talk about paying for clothes by the pound, I was intrigued on a recent trip to Boston to try and track down the store they spoke of years ago. The Garment District, in Cambridge, is too new to have been their stomping grounds, but there was a “By the Pound” section on the first floor. Literally, on the first floor. Most shoppers sat on the floor in the middle of the pile of clothes and pawed through the fabric. I could see how this could be fun on a weekend, as a morning activity, but I was pressed for time.

So I walked on, up to the second floor, where I roamed the shoe racks. There are some seriously nice shoes here, like Cole Haan, Ferragamo, Coach, at reasonable prices. Most designer shoes were $20 and in great shape. The only negative was that shoes were in no particular order, at all. But we all love to hunt anyway, right?

In the women’s clothes I found a fleece pink LL Bean vest, for $8, a brand new Chico’s quilted vest, for $8, and a children’s Rugged Bear winter snow suit, for $5, which I’m hoping to resell. There were only two racks of children’s clothes, and most were for the toddler set, but prices were generally under $5, which I thought was good.

Downstairs is also a costume shop that looks like a great spot to find a Halloween costume or outfit for a crazy party.

I would definitely go back to The Garment District the next time I’m in town and encourage folks in Boston/Cambridge to stop by, too.


Stegmann Clogs Redux

My second pair of Stegmann clogs


If you’ve read my bio here, you know that what I consider to be my first serious thrift store score was a pair of navy Stegmann clogs costing a mere $5.99 at the Goodwill store in Portland, Maine. They were in pristine shape and seemed already molded to my feet the moment I put them on. Despite loving them, and wearing them into the ground, I haven’t been able to bring myself to cough up the $90 required for a new pair. Maybe someday I’ll find another one in a thrift shop, I’ve told myself.

Well, yesterday was apparently that day. And the deal was even better than the first time. Yesterday, I paid $.99 for a pair of nearly new navy Stegmann clogs in my size at a local Volunteers of America store. My feet are in heaven, and so is my wallet. This is why I thrift.

Review of Savers in Rochester, New York

We Western New Yorkers have only recently been introduced to the thrift store chain named Savers. I’ve heard stories of folks finding great deals, so I was intrigued to check it out this afternoon, two days after it opened.

On one hand, I was impressed with how organized the store was. And, boy, do they have inventory – especially in women’s clothing. There are racks and racks of books and kitchen and dishware. One corner of the store had furniture and TVs, but most of the merchandise consists of soft goods – bedding and clothing.

The prices seemed reasonable, with women’s clothing topping out at $4.99, it appeared. I found a Chico’s t-shirt for $2.49 in a pretty green, but most of the brands were not as high end. Lots of Arizona, Cherokee and Dress Barn, for example. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those brands either, but when you pay less than $10 for a pair of shorts new, for example, seeing them for $3.99 on the Savers racks doesn’t inspire enthusiasm (at least not in me).

I also found two prints – one of a fern in a nice black frame, for $4.99, and one small painting of a pig in a white frame for $1.99 that I’ll put in a child’s room.

On Monday Savers starts discounting according to the color of the tag, which they weren’t doing today. I’ll probably check back to see if I can find some better labels next time.

Has anyone else tried Savers? What did you find?

Goodwill Goes Upscale in Rochester

The exterior of Goodwill's Blue store suggests a cute little boutique.

Today was the grand opening of a new venture for the local ABVI-run Goodwill chain – an upscale thrift store named Blue. Located in the typically unthrifty suburb of Pittsford, Blue may just be the ticket to converting shoppers who normally wouldn’t be caught dead in a thrift shop to a new mindset. And then again, maybe not.

Blue is more upscale consignment shop than thrift store, to be honest, though it does have a lot going for it if you haven’t yet been spoiled on $1.00 blouses and $4.00 dresses. I saw designer dresses, handbags and shoes galore, as well as some suits for men. Prices were almost all above $20 – some closer to $100 – but still far below standard retail. The atmosphere and selection are more dressy than casual, so don’t expect to find much in the way of casual pants or shorts, for example.

Carpeting and round display racks tell you right away that this isn't your mother's Goodwill.

I ended up buying what appeared to be a new pair of Ann Taylor leather sandals for $9.99. Compared to what they probably sold for originally, that was a steal. But since I’m used to buying Cole Haan and Born shoes for $2.99 and $4.99, I must admit I did pause before heading to the checkout counter.

Still, I liked the store. I’d go back. Especially since they wrapped my new shoes in pale blue tissue paper and put them in a paper bag with a handle! You won’t see that at the Goodwill down the street.

Forced Thrift Shopping?

Thrift store proponent Sen. Bruce Caswell

Many thrift store fans like me wouldn’t dream of spending their hard-earned cash on new items like clothing and housewares, unless it was an emergency. Why would you?!

Clothing bought at thrift stores typically costs a small fraction of their original suggested retail price. While many items have been previously worn, some still have the tags on them from the original retailer. You would have great difficulty determining which clothes had been purchased at a mall department store and which at a local thrift store – in fact, I get more compliments from my thrift store finds. You can find very fashionable but relatively inexpensive clothing at thrift stores like the Salvation Army, Goodwill and Volunteers of America – some of my faves.

So maybe that’s why Michigan Senator Bruce Caswell decided it would be a good idea to propose requiring children in foster care in his great state to spend their annual $80 clothing allowance at thrift stores. No more new clothes for them!

Fortunately, three days after his initial proposal, Sen. Caswell changed his tune, indicating he is drafting an amendment to his proposal that would involve requiring the Department of Human Services to work out a gift card program with major retailers.

Granted, while I prefer to shop at thrift stores, no one – including me – wants to be told they have to shop at certain stores. It’s demeaning. And, heck, I like thinking some of the stores I shop at are my personal secrets – I don’t need more shoppers competing for the great deals. So while I applaud his recognition that there are bargains to be had inside thrift retailers, demanding that people shop there is just ridiculous.

Andrew Wyeth Art for an Unbelievable Price

I rarely find Andrew Wyeth art at thrift stores

I’m currently on an art buying spree, thanks to the new house my husband and I are buying. So now when I step into local thrift shops, the first place I head is to the art corner. On a recent trip, I spotted this framed Andrew Wyeth print I remembered from my childhood (we’re an artistic family). It brought back memories of my younger brother sporting a coon skin cap. Of course, I had to have it.

Now, anyone who recognizes the name “Andrew Wyeth” knows that his work is very collectible. Framed prints routinely sell for around $50 at my favorite consignment store and you’d be lucky to find them online for anywhere near that. So when I turned it over and saw the $5.99 price tag, I was giddy. What a deal!

Sure, the frame has a little nick, but it was well worth the $5.99 I was prepared to pay. But, no, my total was $1.07, with tax, since the print was on sale for $.99 that week.

Now that I’ve shown you my big bargain, I’m almost embarrassed to show you the large oil painting I bought last month online at Goodwill… it cost more than this print.

Pay pennies for new-to-you clothing and housewares

Imagine being able to buy pricey, but gently used, name brand outfits for your kids from Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister or North Face for a small fraction of what they cost new. You'll even spot furniture, silver and glassware for your home for less than a meal out. Or find something for yourself from Chico’s, J. Jill or Lilly Pulitzer and pay for it with the change from the bottom of your purse. Those are the kinds of deals to be had at thrift shops.

If you get a thrill from finding fabulous deals at thrift shops, consignment stores, and resale outlets, I hope you’ll visit this site often. You’ll pick up proven tips for saving even more on your thrift shop purchases, find the latest thrift shop news and information, learn about items you might not have thought to search for in thrift stores and get a look at photos of my best thrifty bargains.