2013-10-03 / Opinion

Thrift Store or Treasure Trove–You Decide

Kathy Rohloff

I like to shop, but only if I come across a bargain. Hence, I hover over clearance racks and reduced-to-clear bins. But the best, by far, is shopping at a thrift store.

The first charity shop began in 1899 in the UK and was called the Wolverhampton Society for the Blind. By selling goods made by the blind it helped raise money for the society.

As early as 1941, the Red Cross opened its first shop at 7 Old Bond Street in London. During the war over 200 “permanent shops” and about 150 temporary shops did business. Traditionally, these shops were run by volunteers, and after paying expenses, all proceeds went to the charity they served.

In the United States major national thrift shop operators include Arc Thrift, Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift, ReStore and Value Village.

Of course, my personal favorite is the Gifford Thrift Shop in Randolph. On any visit I may see neighbors, my lawyer, one of my doctors, fellow merchants and clerks, a local church pianist and singer, my favorite nurse, or friends I’ve not seen for some time. They join with me elbow– to-elbow as we scan the shelves and racks to see what treasures our fellow citizens have donated from their closets and attics.

I went to my Facebook page and queried, “Why do you shop at thrift stores?” and the replies were as follows. “Bargains, cheap play clothes, and a good way to clothe a large family” was voiced by many. I know this to be true since I regularly replenish my grandchildren’s clothing. They are growing quickly and regularly destroy outfits that see a lot of outside play. “I’ve seen poverty and this allows me to spend less on clothing; I like that it’s recycling,” also resonated with me. While raising my children we frequented thrift stores and to this day they are frugal when it comes to purchases. Frugal? Cheap?

Regardless, it still allows one to have a few extra dollars to give to those in need. “It’s an adult treasure hunt, like buying a grab bag. There’s the thrill of the chase, designer clothing for little money, and items that allow me to have a blast from the past.”

I must admit to an adrenaline rush when I find a “treasure.” Some of my magnificent finds include: a ceramic Dutch oven, a stoneware Bundt pan, Pyrex bake ware, wooden inlaid boxes, cork boards, a complete child’s play kitchen, wool blankets for rug hooking, novelty plates for the grandkids’ lunches, old favorite VHS tapes to break up the monotony of riding the exercise bike, dress slacks that fit in length, Charlie Wysocki puzzles, and a lava lamp. (The lamp is a true blast from the past.) During my last visit I purchased four children’s story books, new gift wrap, a pair of bling covered children’s shoes, and a box of rocket stuff that included two rockets, nine engines, a launcher pad, control as well as miscellaneous parts.

I spent $7.50.

I’ve convinced you, right? Begin now and you’ll be able to find that perfect Halloween costume for yourself or a fellow pirate, festive table decorations for Thanksgiving will be available, and before December arrives “new” Christmas ornaments and perhaps some whimsical snowmen, angels, and Santas to make the spirits bright.

It’s guiltless shopping, at a bargain price, and almost better than chocolate.

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