At the tail end of February, I decided to do a last minute thrifting trip. Very last minute, like less than 24hrs before I actually left. It was a combination of a few things: I had a few days off from the day job and this winter has been very mild. I decided to take advantage of it and hit the road. This whirlwind tour would be eight stores in four days in three different states!
Connecticut has been good to us in the past, so we decided focus on some of our favorite locations and explore some new areas.
Monday – Connecticut
Red White Blue – Waterbury, CT – All of their locations run independently of each other, so each store has it’s own sale going on. I really lucked out, two colors were 75% off and a third was 50% off. The 75% items go very quick, so get there early!
Red White & Blue’s are CASH only!
This store is a must stop, it’s huge. Prepare to spend a few hours here. It’s unreal how much stock they have. I really knocked it out of the park on this trip. I loaded up on lots of designer clothing items and Hawaiian shirts.
Salvation Army – Bristol, CT – I was really looking forward to visiting a Salvation Army on this trip. Salvation Armies are my favorite. They have the best prices, usually have a bigger selection of older items and the money collected really goes to help the community.
I purposely picked Bristol, CT as our first stop, because there was a Salvation Army there. I get to the address and there is no store! Discouraged, I started looking around the parking lot and directly across the street I see a Goodwill!
Goodwill – Bristol, CT – Like many Goodwills I have visited in CT, they had a decent amount clothing and a piles of Target blowout merchandise. Slightly bigger than most of their other locations in CT. I walked around for 20mins and left empty handed.
There are few things I would like to see Goodwills change:
1) Most of their locations don’t seem to run any sales unless it’s a holiday and even then, some locations don’t even do that. It would be nice if they did sales once a month or at least on holidays.
2) Their “Goodwill Card” aka shoppers card, is particular in certain regional areas. I got a card last year in Danbury, CT. It doesn’t work in their Bristol, CT store, Middletown, NY store nor the Rochester, NY store. And those locations cards don’t work amongst each other either. It’s very confusing and there doesn’t seem to be a benefit to having one.
3) If you are going to carry Target clearance items, mark that stuff cheap and get it out of the store. Too many times, Goodwill marks these items back up, more than the last sale price. I’ve seen items sit on shelves for over a year in some locations.
4) Stop stacking your vinyl records on your book shelves. It makes them un-shoppable. Get a proper record bin. Also, $3 is pretty steep for a record, especially since: a) you never check the condition, b) check to see if there is even a record in the jacket c) most of the records you have, aren’t even worth $1. Who really needs a copy of Herb Albert, Pat Cooper, Al Marino, etc? No one. Change those things and I’m sure you will sell tons of vinyl.
Savers – Bristol, CT – A very nice store. It was a short distance away from the Goodwill. The store was well lit, clean and organized.
A very pleasurable shopping experience. Staff was very friendly and helpful. They were pretty light on mens clothing when I was there. I picked up three items here. I may have picked up a few more items if they were running some sort of sale. I will definitely stop by next time I am in the area.
Here are a few suggestions for Savers (East Coast)
1) Most of their locations don’t seem to run any sales unless it’s a holiday.
2) Savers on the West Coast, (from what I’ve heard) seem to have better selections and better pricing than the East.
3) Their prices are on the high side.
4) Their promotions are horrible for East coast locations. I have to get 15 punches (at $5 a punch) in order to get 30% off discount. I would have to spend $75. The cards also expire. West coast’s punch card is only 5 or 6 punches.
Another thing that bugs me in general about most thrift stores; we all have come across that one item that is broken, needs repair, etc. They never can seem to “mark it down” further. Company policy. Most thrift stores source their products from donations. It’s ok, to take 50% on busted stuff and get rid of it. You have zero dollars into it.
Tuesday – New Jersey
I had some concerns about thrifting in NJ. Having lived in NJ for a bit, there are definitely some rougher neighborhoods. Just like NYC, some cities and towns in NJ are heavily populated urban areas and congested with traffic. So I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect today.
Red White Blue – Paterson, NJ – Everything looked good until I was about a 1/2 mile away and crossed a small bridge. Streets and sideways were full of garbage and litter. The neighborhood looked rundown. Red White and Blue had the tiniest parking lot I’ve ever seen, it maybe held 15-20 cars. The lot was completely filled. We had to find street parking. Most of the street closest to the store, were no parking zones. We ended up parking over two blocks away. Normally I wouldn’t care, but I have a small child with me, it didn’t seem like the best neighborhood, I would probably have several bags when I left and it was raining.
This location is the complete opposite of their Waterbury location. Its two very large rooms, poor lighting, old and dirty, the aisles were so crammed it was hard to get a cart down….. I was in thrift heaven! I really enjoy a good treasure hunt. The racks were PACKED. Lots of treasures to be found. I went though every rack twice to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
In the second room there was a freight elevator, which is used to bring new product upstairs from the locking dock area. People waited around this area like vultures. As soon as the elevator came up, people descended upon the new merchandise, before it was even unloaded from the carts. Kinda of reminded me of going to a Goodwill Outlet. In the Savers in Brookfield, you are not allowed touch any merchandise that is on a stock-out rack/cart.
I purchased a ton of stuff here, easily a few hundred dollars. I found some great deals here. Their sales for the day were: one color was 75% off and another was 50% off.
The few things I didn’t like: I felt their prices on housewares were on the high side. I saw a few sets of dishes, missing pieces for about $50. They had a few old beat up pots and pans and most of those started around $10 a piece.
Since the store was so cramped, they had a very small selection for furniture and electronics.
Room one: womens and children’s clothing, media, households and jewelry.
Room two: mens, bedding, electronics, toys and furniture.
Value Village/Unique – Paterson, NJ
I was under the impression that all Value Village and Unique locations were owned and operated by Savers. Apparently there is a small chain in NJ that are not.
Taken from back corner. Another large room is off to the left.
The store was very large and extremely well organized. Probably the cleanest / best organized thrift store I’ve been to in a long time. Great assortment of merchandise; everything household items, toys, clothing to a big jewelry section to thousand dollar oil paintings. But just like Savers, I felt their prices were a tad on the high side. But they definitely had some better quality merchandise. Though they had a few used sneakers for $15-25 a pair and they were nothing special. I went back and forth on a few pieces over the price (including a pair of sneakers for myself), but ended up putting most of it back. I ended up only purchased two items.
On the plus side, I found out afterwards, they do sales quite often. I just happened to go on a non-sale day. Bummer, had it been a sale day, I probably would have filled a cart. Next time I’m in NJ, I will try to check out their several other locations.
We received some bad info. We were told that there were two Salvation Army locations in Paterson. We drove around and they ended up being Salvation Army rehabilitation centers. We got stuck in traffic for a quite bit before we finally throw in the towel and headed back. There were a few more thrift stores in the area, we’ll have to make another trip out to Paterson.
Wednesday – New York
Goodwill – Wappingers Falls, NY
For years, this store has been hit or miss for me. Bigger location, with a decent mix of used merchandise, vintage stuff and Target clearance. Years ago, I found a fantastic pair of vintage Peter Max Wrangler jeans here. I sold them for $125.
This trip, I found a few items, some records, vintage cartoon glasses and a vintage R2D2 action figure.
Speaking of sitting on old merchandise, they have four long boxes of comics on the floor in the front of the store. They have been they for over a year now. It’s obvious they are not selling. Every time I stop in, I ask what’s the best they could do if I were to purchase all of them. Everytime, they say the same thing, “we can’t to do that,” and that I can buy them individually. This is the same store that has been sitting of some old Target clearance for well over a year.
And since we are on the topic, why is it that most thrift stores put comics and records on the floor and then want a ton of money for them? If I’m going to be on my hands and knees, hunched over, for an extended period of time, those prices better be rock bottom. That’s what most record stores do, one dollar records are on the floor.
Thursday – New York
Salvation Army – Middletown, NY
This location is still fairly new to me. I’ve stopped here 2 or 3 times now. I haven’t put my finger on it yet, but this store is weird. Maybe has something to do with it’s layout. It has a weird entrance way. Not sure.
The store is stocked mostly with clothing, some knick knacks and housewares. The furniture selection was pretty well stocked this time around. Several dressers, couches, beds, etc. The last time around, they had nothing for furniture. The don’t carry much in the way of media or electronics.
The back of the store, furniture area.
This store has pretty good prices. I usually find a few items everytime I stop in. This time around, I found a few vintage Tonka trucks.
The store is only a minutes off the highway (route 17, soon to be interstate 86), it’s worth the stop.
I grabbed lunch in the area and hit the road.
Salvation Army – Binghamton, NY
This what a Salvation Army should be. Big, fantastic prices and a little bit dingy.
Some thrift stores feel stale the second you open the door. You expect to see the same old stuff that’s been sitting there for months. With this location, I feel this is never the case. I think that’s in part due to the cheap prices. Stuff does not sit long in this store.
This store is huge. Shot from the back of the store. Not in the picture: furniture area (behind me), media and shoes (to the right), front cashwrap and toy area (in the middle and around the corner)
This time around, I scored a stack of vintage boardgames. It the past I have found: cartoon glassware, big stack of promotional 45rpm records, huge pile of vintage rap & hip hop vinyl, and some great vintage clothing.
This store usually has a fairly large amount of inexpensive furniture.
All and all, I would say this trip was very successful. Two months later, 8 items have sold, out of 30 that were listed. There are still another 38 that still need to be photographed and listed. Those 8 items paid for the whole trip. The rest is gravy.
Road trip ideas for next time:
Start earlier in the day – each day we took it casual and left around 10am. With Red White and Blue, you have to get they when they open to get the good deals.
Snacks and lunch – I enjoy eating on the road, but you can’t just eat fastfood all the day. Find something local and good for lunch. Packing some bottled water and some healthy snacks is the way to go.
Visit more stores in a day – I think if we leave earlier, this shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish. Though Red White and Blue’s are like visiting three stores.
Newly listed items:
Store J F M A M J J A S O N D
Ebay 47 00 24 77 02 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
Etsy 83 11 05 11 01 00 00 00 00 00 00 00