Thrift stores have been recycling items for years, since way before the idea was trendy. One person’s unwanted blazer is another’s treasured find. And where else can you buy furniture priced to sell or out-of-print book editions and benefit charity at the same time?
Clearly, thrift stores attract shoppers for myriad reasons, including the thrill of hunting for a quality piece on sale, but the stores also offer a glimpse of what items our society uses, gives up and reuses.
“Thrift stores are a way of looking at the remnants of our cultural history. … Like little museums with ever-changing exhibits,” says Chriss Slevin, co-author of “Dirt Cheap, Real Good: A Highway Guide to Thrift Stores in the Washington, D.C. Area.”
Ms. Slevin and her thrift-loving buddy, Leah Smith, are avid thrift-store shoppers. They planned and recorded their personal road trip to more than 200 thrift and resale stores in and around the District a little more than two years ago.
“Often, I love a hard-core junk shop because that’s where you find the most unusual objects, and you have to root around to find them,” Ms. Slevin says.
There are hundreds of visitors guides to the District, but these two women tapped into the underdiscussed world of thrift-store shopping.
A thrift store is a resale shop run by a nonprofit organization for the benefit of specific charitable causes. Thrift stores are very different from consignment stores, which split their profits with the person who consigned the product sold.
Thrift Shop Consignments Inc., just over the P Street Bridge in Northwest, is a prime example of this distinction. The managers and volunteers transformed the store from a thrift store into a consignment shop for the purpose of raising more money for charity. The store supports the Board of Visitors of Children’s Hospital, the Child Health Center Board of Children’s Hospital, the Ladies’ Board of the House of Mercy and the Founders Board of St. John’s Community Services Inc.
Kathy Barker, a volunteer at the shop, says people bring more and better-quality items if they get something, too.
The consignment store sits in a quiet neighborhood of old lampposts, aged buildings, brick sidewalks and friendly faces. Students from George Washington University frequent the store alongside senior citizens from the retirement home down the street.
Katrina Groeger, the store’s assistant manager, explains that the locals are responsible for the high-quality products the store is able to offer and that those locals have an incentive to consign because they will get some of the profits made.
The store used to sell clothing and appliances. Now it sells only “high-quality furniture and antiques,” says Diane Falk, the store manager.
The shop had been a thrift store since its founding in 1930, but it is able to give more money to the charities it supports now that the inventory of consigned furniture and antiques is worth more.
While consigning products improves selection, thrift stores such as Goodwill and Salvation Army serve the needy with their profits and their products.
“If you didn’t have any money, you could get a voucher to get free clothes,” says Barrington Cummigs, store manager for the only Salvation Army store in the District, in Northeast. Otherwise, any profits go to benefit community-oriented charities, he says, such as drug-rehabilitation programs and a shelter for battered women.View Entire Story
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