Is My Thrift Store Better Than Yours?

This is just about the only hard hitting piece of investigative journaling that you will see from me this year.  And by investigative I mean, I hit up a thrift store in Salt Lake while I was there last weekend.

So its bound to be fantastic.

Lets start this discussion the way that I feel most comfortable.

Hi, My name is Mandi and I am an addict.

(Hi Mandi!)

I am addicted to thrifting.  There is something just so exciting about the thrill of the hunt and not knowing what treasures you may (or may not) find.  Like this brass and glass table I swiped up last week for $15.00.

I frequently instagram/FB/blog (when I get around to it) my thrift store scores.  And without fail, someone always says something along the lines of “MANDI.  That is IT, I am moving to St. George.  Your DI has THE BEST STUFF!!”   I dont want you guys to get the impression that the DI in St. George is this treasure trove of amazing furniture and just quirky enough to get your hipster juices flowing figurines.

I am actually here to let you in on a little secret.  I believe (for the most part) that thrift stores are created equal.  Now, I am sure that this is not true everywhere, but if we are looking at the broad scope of things, like my fellow investigative journalists do, for the most part I think this is pretty accurate.

I know what you are thinking. “ Dude, she is such a liar, she just doesn’t want everyone stealing all the good crap before she gets to it.”  And while this may be true, I have a secret to tell you…

I go to the DI almost every day.  Now, before you schedule an intervention,  you should know that it is LITERALLY right up the street from my house.  And I pass it every time I go anywhere.  So to stop is not a huge deal.  I have a route.  I can be in and out in under 5 minutes.  Hmmm.  maybe I do need an intervention…but back to the point.

8.5 out of 10 times I am there I find nothing.

When I do find something most often its a small tchotcky,  every once in a while I find something a little better (like my awesome industrial lamp) and every once in a blue moon I find a piece of furniture that I lick to stake my claim on.  Just kidding, I don’t do that…(as far as you know.)

Thrifted Mid Century Dresser Before and After

Rarely when you are thrifting do you find something that you instantly love.  Most often the first thought I have (or words I say if I am with someone) is “Well, I don’t hate it.”   Then like a beautiful friendship that morphs into a lifelong love, this thing that I initially didn’t hate turns into something that I have to have.

So just for fun, and to show you that the DI is no better than your Goodwill,  I brought my camera along for the ride with me today.

Please enjoy.

This is the indoor furniture section.  Lots and lots of particle board.

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Your thrift store has over priced semi wooden dressers?  Mine does too.

Thrift Store Dresser

Oooh oooh!!  How about sofas that would NEVER work in this decade?  (please note that the light blue one would look pretty fab with a navy velvet on it but that is the only piece that could be resurrected.)

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How about a bad lamp or 13?

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This is the point of my route that we head through the swinging double doors you see on your left.  This area is known as The Yard.

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This is where most of the tables, chairs, art, doors, bikes, luggage, etc. are.

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After I walk past the chairs I check out the art.  There was an ESPECIALLY special piece in there today that I just had to share with you.

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Now its time to head back inside, to the housewares.

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A quick glance in the small pictures/frames and we spot these lovely beauties.  (side note:  When I was younger I ALWAYS wanted a picture like this.  I mean, the artist captured her nose shine just so.)

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Then we round the isle to the glass/ceramics.  This is where I always find my sweet figurines like the Pomeranian statue that I spray painted in Sierra’s guest room.

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Today it was full of green dragons.  I literally don’t know how ANYONE could part with a collection like this.  It must have been harder than giving birth.

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The one item that I didn’t hate (but didn’t love enough to buy) was this little bird statue.

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Then its on to the wood.

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Unfortunately today there were no wooden bowls, only horrifying tole painted elfin creatures wearing lederhosen and a polar bear (or is it Frosty?) riding a burro.. YEEEE HAW!  LOVE that bandana Frosty!!  Please note the outhouse wind chime that is thankfully still in its package.

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Actually I lied.  There was this little fellow that would be great a bright solid color…

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You know how they say things were built better in days gone by?  I can attest to the fact that furniture was indeed stronger back in the vintage.  Oh and don’t forget about cars.  But what about pantyhose?  Don’t you let that worry you for one more second.  You can compare the run test between today’s new fangled control tops to the wonderful firm-hold of yesteryear.

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Now in all seriousness I actually really did love these books,  I just might head back over there tomorrow and get them. Wouldn’t they be so perfect in my house?!  The Handyman Do It Yourself Encyclopedia series.  I am sure that there is a thing or two I could learn in there.

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Can you believe that with all of those treasures I left empty handed?  Shocking.

Do I find great crap at my local thrift store?  You bet I do.  Do I find awesome crap at other peoples thrift stores?  Yep.  In fact over the weekend I stopped by the DI in West Jordan UT and found these brass deer statues.

I am constantly in awe over Jilly’s thrift store scores, but when we were in her stomping ground doing Kelsey’s room makeover we found next to nothing at the numerous Goodwill’s that we stopped at.

So if you are feeling like you never find anything good at your thrift store, there is a good chance you aren’t as big of an addict as I am.

And that may just be a blessing and a curse.

Love Your Guts

 

 

 

Oh and because I love you, here are a few posts I have written on HOW I shop at a thrift store:

No More Buyers Remorse: 8 Questions to ask yourself BEFORE you buy from a thrift store.

5 Ways To Boost Your Thrifting Vision

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Comments

  1. Uh, hello! That unicorn in the bird picture was FIERCE!! :) Fun post, Mandi!

  2. You’re hilarious! And, while I don’t go to my local GoodWill everyday, I am typically there a few times a week. However, if it was just up the street from my house, I would DEFINITELY need an intervention! ;)

  3. Confession… I’ve totally thought your DI was better than my shops… I still think it has a tiny edge, but more like JV vs. Varsity and not JV vs. NBA like I thought! :) Thanks for the tour girl!

    Mon

  4. My thrift store is so overpriced with not so great stuff! ugh!! (in fact, I mention you this post . . . hahaha!)

    http://owensolivia.blogspot.com/2012/08/ridiculous-thrift-store-prices.html

  5. Well it looks like I need to emigrate! Our thrift stores(called charity shops in Ireland) are tiny, and yours looks vast, I’m jealous. Myself and my partner have a second hand book stall at our local market, so we have a really good excuse for going into them all the time looking for hidden gems.

    our book blog
    http://www.bazaartales.com

  6. I’m glad I’m not the only one that goes to a thrift store everyday! I must confess that mine isn’t exactly down the road like yours is though….. Oh well! :)

    -Bonnie @ Revolutionaries
    http://www.revolutionariesblog.com

  7. Your store is so organized. A couple I go to look like they just throw crap everywhere. It makes you want to turn around and leave.

  8. Having been to many DI stores in Utah and many Goodwill stores in lots of other states, I have to say that while the stuff may be equivalent, the prices are not! Never can I get a great deal at Goodwill on any furniture piece. But the difference isn’t too bad, I paid $20 for an amazing chair at Goodwill and $5 for a similar piece at DI. Either way, I’m not overpaying. :)

    Also, fun fact, my dad has those encyclopedias on his book shelf in his basement.

  9. Love this post! And if there was a thrift store down my street I would definitely have a hard time not stopping by everyday (we have a McDonald’s instead and I have no problem passing that one up)!

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  11. This is one of my most favorite posts by you ever! And not just because you mentioned my name……it’s because of the pantyhose bit! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I always see them too and wonder what the heck?!
    I love you?
    Jilly

  12. Your stores are so so so much bigger! ahh. Lucky.

  13. My Goodwill looks absolutely. positively. nothing. like. that. Sigh.

  14. Unfortunately, our Oklahoma stores are more than lacking. I totally have thrift store envy.

    • Jodie, If you are ever in Edmond, hit the Goodwill there. It used to be AmAzInG! There is another one, too, but I cannot remember the name of it. There is a branch of it just down the steps to the east of the Goodwill but you want to go to the branch that is near downtown. I haven’t lived there in a couple of years but remember those two quite fondly!

    • The Edmond Goodwill has been the best I’ve found, so far! I haven’t been to the others though!

  15. Excuse me? You found nothing good? That unicorn was AWESOME! Seriously. You should have gotten it.

  16. I miss living down the road from the SG DI!! It was so easy to just drop in to check, and I’m laughing because I had a set route in the store too. Collectibles case, housewares, inside furniture, the yard, then books. In and out in a few minutes. And you’re not joking about licking the furniture to claim it. You can’t step away from a good piece to find an associate to write up the tag for fear of the old man/lady hovering like a vulture. LOL I might have to join in on that intervention…. :D

  17. Lol! Thrift stores are not all alike!!! I usually have to leave town to do any good thrifting. And by “leaving town”, I mean, there is nothing in any direction for nearly an hour. We are like that silly cable (u-verse?) commercial where they are flying over the jungle and looking at a remote community who still had dish tv. We do have thrift stores here, they just have no selection. Ever.

  18. Yours is still better than mine. I work about 1/2 a mile from the biggest Goodwill in town and it is still about a 1/4 of the size of yours!!! Yours is HUGE. But you are right. I go almost everday for lunch with a co-worker and while it is hit or miss, that is the best way to get the good stuff!

  19. Loved this post! I too, am a thrifting addict! My bf calls me a hoarder, but it’s not really HAVING things that I can’t help, it’s FINDING things! Thanks for helping me make that realization! :)

  20. My friends always say the same thing to me! “I can never find good stuff thrifting like you can!” Well, that’s because they don’t go as often as me :) You have to go at least 3 to 4 times a week in order to consistently score awesome items. What a fun post! Thanks for the tour of your DI :)

  21. I spend a psychotic amount of time at thrift stores and here’s what I have learned (aside from go often) is that certain stores are better for certain items. There are locations where I know I will find different furniture styles that is consistent with the people living around it.

    The best thrift stores for me are always the ones that no one goes to and are out of major cities. And you start noticing what days and times are better to go for inventory. I.E. after a weekend a late Monday or a Tuesday usually bring out the stock of all the people that did weekend drop offs.

    I also do think it’s regional having lived in different parts of my province (Canada) there is a huge difference between what I find in my old town vs my new town.

  22. Nope, after living in Utah, I am officially ruined. The Goodwill’s in Washington are ridiculous. I RARELY find anything good, but even if I do its so overpriced I wouldn’t buy it, ours are definitely smaller than the DI so less stuff. Its really frustrating! I have found one thrift store I like (St. Vincent De Paul) but its not close by so I can’t go every day. Boo. I miss the DI.

  23. Everytime someone comments “How do you find such great stuff at thrift stores???” I say “I go often.” That’s really all there is to it… it’s the luck of the draw, and if you’re there a few times a week you’re more likely to get the great designer handbag or coffee table or book collection. Thanks for breaking it down for us!

    Now, what’s DI stand for?

    • DI stands for Deseret Industries. It’s owned and run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s a non-profit that helps sustain the poor and the needy as well as provides vocational training and employment to those in need.

  24. This post makes me feel a lot better about not finding anything most of the times I go! I did just score the most perfect little kids table with tons of character for $20! I can’t wait to make it over. Thanks for this post!!

  25. Haha, I have those exact deer statues! Got ‘em for $6 at a local thrift store recently.

    I agree with previous posters – the key to getting the “good stuff” is going as often as possible!

  26. I’m the same way! I love thrift stores. I’ll stop in if I have an extra few minutes just to see what’s new. Isn’t it crazy how much they want for furniture sometimes? Lame! $115 for that thing? I just snagged one off craigslist this weekend for $25. Yea…!

    The 13 ugly lamps you showed, I think some could be saved with a new drum shade and a fancy coat of spray paint :D

  27. Hi Mandy! I’m an addict too! And it drives my husband crazy. I have to say I agree as well that you need to go often…and have an open mind. BTW, I love your blog… I have been toying with idea of starting my own after seeing all of the cool things you do and post about.

  28. In Minnesota people must never send furniture to Good Will or thrift stores. Rarely do I see more than a few pieces of furniture and usually it is particle board shelves. Yuck. Yours is better!

    Bliss

  29. Ha! Yes, 2 things, your thrift store does (hmm..) look like mine and that sofa would be killer in navy velvet. Hit and miss, you never know, the key is to frequent them (making you correct, again). Have a great week!! Tara

  30. I used to live in great thrift store land like you. Really, the thrift stores that are within a 30 minute drive from here aren’t super bad. Our problem is they aren’t the person’s sole source of income, so they are rarely open. Maybe on Saturdays from 10-3 and Sundays. We need places that you can hit up every day…because quantity time there…equals quality finds! :) Love seeing the organized DI shelves too…that’s another thing. Goodwill and DI have in common is they do lots of outsourcing and donating elsewhere…and they chuck the crap. These little run-down family or small church owned stores here take what they can get, and therefore things that should end up in the garbage end up on the shelves. Sad but true. Small military towns suck. The end.

  31. I have had great luck with the thrift stores over here in Washington DC, more so than in Utah! I have about 8 or 9 different stores within 15 minutes of my house, and all of them have some kind of crazy 50% off day each week. Dangerous for our bank account. There are some over priced stores, but for the most part I have been so much more successful over here on the East coast than in Utah. I agree each store is hit and miss.

  32. Too funny! Every time I go to St. George, I make it a point to stop there. I’ve rarely found something that I absolutely LOVED, but I did score some brand new name brand pants for my son for $2! Can’t beat that! My SIL has had some great finds there. She goes often, too.

  33. I do believe you were using some sarcasm, although i did like that last bird you showed.

  34. OMGosh….I almost bought those brass deer at the West Jordan store!! I had the ticket in hand, but then I started thinking….and thinking. Between reading about great DI finds on your blog and Mandi #2’s budget cleanse, a great and fierce war broke out in my head about buying those adorable deer!! I (obviously) left without them, reminding myself that I didn’t have anywhere to put them at the moment and that they’d just get thrown in my heaping treasure trove of stuff I intend on using later.

  35. yup you’re right. i felt like i was walking the aisles of our local goodwill.

  36. I’m reading this post after I just got back from our Salvation Army that I go to about once or twice a week. I was almost stomping out of there today because I NEVER FIND ANYTHING ANYMORE…I used to.
    And now after going through your post I see that yours is totally better LOL. It’s huge!!!! I can’t even believe how big it is.
    And don’t you think that the prices have gone up? I totally do. The thrift stores are just not as cheap and good as they used to be.

  37. Totally agree that going often is key, but I also think that not all thrift stores are made equally. And unlike prevailing wisdom that you need to choose a thrift store by its surroundings, I’ve found the opposite to be true. I rarely find great stuff inside the city limits of Hipsterdom (Portland). ( I say that with love and can because I live here.) There’s just too much competition and anything midmod has a corresponding price. Our best finds, by far, have been in our ticky-tacky suburban Salvation Army that looks AWFUL when you walk in. Of course, it helps that we’re into 70s style.

    Love these photos!

  38. I live in Norfolk, VA and I have a regular thrift store route that is about a three-mile round trip from my house. However, our ReHabitat store sucks. There isn’t any other way to describe it. My girlfriend and I recently drove up to Williamsburg, VA (about 45 miles) to their ReHabitat store. IT WAS AMAZING. Their furniture is donated by the many local high end resorts. We spent about a hundred dollars and got three chairs (upholstered), two lamps and four pairs of earrings. The earrings were little saws and wrenches. So cute! This was the most amazing thrifting I’ve ever seen and I’m a born and bred thrifter (thanks, Mom). I recommend it to anyone!

  39. Thank you SO much for posting this. I have had a thrift store envy that has fueled displeasure with my own local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Now I see that the same over-priced crap can be found North America-wide (I live just outside Toronto), and that your luck is actually persistence.
    The ire I’ve recently held for my local thrift shops is subsiding now. =)

  40. I have always secretly wondered if your thrift stores were more awesome there. Yours looks a lot like the ones around here except a little bigger and more orderly. :)
    I used to go thrifting a lot more often but since we plan to move house soon I’ve decided to stop buying stuff (umm, treasures!!!) so that we have less to move. When I went more often I found some neat things!! Now I just go garage saling in the summer and am able to find great stuff then.
    Thanks for taking us thrifting with you!

  41. This was such a fun post! Totally nailed it — all thrift stores ARE created equal. I, too, am addicted to the thrill of the chase and stop like 3-5 times a week at the same stores…sigh.

  42. All thrift stores are Not created equal! (Sorry Mandi, I usually agree with everything you say!) I was basically raised in the DI in Logan, Utah and after I moved to Houston I realized that the DI is unique and superior. Goodwill and Salvation Army are a joke! Like, trying to charge $300 for a dinky, fake wood dresser ridiculous! And everything was like that, I’m talking like consistently $5 to $10 more expensive than anything I would buy new at a store.
    I can’t tell you how disappointed I was… DI set the bar to high!

  43. I busted out laughing a couple times :) thanks. The DI in Ogden though has got to be my fav when I go up north to visit family. My mom actually wrote in my card for college graduation something to the effect of being proud of a daughter who knew the in’s and out’s of all the DI’s in the state :) hahaha

  44. This made me feel SO MUCH BETTER about the thrift stores in my area — and proves that I need to go in a lot more frequently for the awesome score.

  45. I’ve lived in a lot of states and have seen much of the same stuff at all the different thrift stores, so you’re right, they’re not that different overall. Regions can be different in price (the West is way more expensive) and real antiques vs vintage pieces. Out here I find real antiques, even at thrift stores, but they are getting more savvy and putting things up for auction instead. I go every day to the ones close by and every week at the others. I just discovered one in the back room of a habitat for humanity when I was there to look for drawer pulls for a bedside table. I scored big since it was brand new and no one knew about it!

  46. Holy shiz I laughed out loud about the elfin creature and the dragons! They really are a bit terrifying! How could you pass up that unicorn though?! I am kind of in a fight with my DI right now, but I think I will get over it and visit her again soon.

  47. I am so glad you posted this! I am just learning the thrills of thrifting but I’ve mostly been willing to pay a bit more and stalk the KSL Classifieds instead. I did have the cute gals at the “Vintage Yard Sale Utah” Facebook page help me put together a list of great places for thrifting in Utah. I’d love your input on the list so we can add to it. I won’t disrespect you by posting a link here but let me know if you want the list and I’ll send it on over!

  48. Usually I just lurk in the virtual shadows. But I can’t resist commenting in your thrift store post. Sure in the big city we have multiple Goodwills a few savers and lots of crappy little hole in the wall thrift stores. But I seldom see the volume y showed in your DI. I did see a dresser like you pictured it was priced at 129.99. Ouch! In other words I have to drive allover the valley and visit many stores th get that quality and volume of pieces. So yes your store is better.

  49. Usually I just lurk in the virtual shadows. But I can’t resist commenting in your thrift store post. Sure in the big city we have multiple Goodwills a few savers and lots of crappy little hole in the wall thrift stores. But I seldom see the volume y showed in your DI. I did see a dresser like you pictured it was priced at 129.99. Ouch! In other words I have to drive allover the valley and visit many stores th get that quality and volume of pieces. So yes your store is better.

  50. Usually I just lurk in the virtual shadows. But I can’t resist commenting in your thrift store post. Sure in the big city we have multiple Goodwills a few savers and lots of crappy little hole in the wall thrift stores. But I seldom see the volume y showed in your DI. I did see a dresser like you pictured it was priced at 129.99. Ouch! In other words I have to drive allover the valley and visit many stores th get that quality and volume of pieces. So yes your store is better.

  51. I love how weird you are. I love that we can’t tell whether or not you actually lick an item to claim it… and that you clearly thought of it once or twice, because you posted it out loud on the internet. However, as Hal states above me, I think you are wrong about your DI not being better. The sheer volume is shocking! I also drive all over Connecticut trying to find that amount of crap.

    Side note: if you have ReStore out there (all furniture/building materials donated, where the funds go to Habitat for Humanity) they can have some truly awesome stuff every now and again.

  52. Haha! Oh my gosh, this is hilarious. Why is a polar bear riding a donkey? Good to know thrift stores are quirky no matter where you live. :)

    sagegrayson.com

  53. Your actually IS better than any of mine. Mine is very tiny, dark, dirty, & I hold my breath when I walk in (PfreakingU).
    And living in the midwest, lets be real, people don’t have the coolest crap.

  54. Totally love that DI! I got this chair there for $6. (http://auntspicy.blogspot.de/2009/07/6-chair.html) and we found my grandma’s china there for $1. a plate! Love it!

  55. You crack me up with your words and your ways! Haha. Anyway… love this post. I think there are lots of great thrift stores out there. The closest one to me is MUCH smaller than yours, but there are a few scattered near by. I find that Salvation Army has better (though usually more expensive) furniture selection than Goodwill, but I love Goodwill for decor/accessories and they also have brand new stuff from Target half price!

  56. I went to a couple thrift stores today and was thinking…have you noticed that no matter what thrift store or where it is they ALL smell the exact same? Like the smell of cumulative junk is universal? I wonder if you could capture and bottle the smell and call it Eau de Junque. Then every time you need a fix you could take a whiff! HA! Found some great white octagonal ironstone plates and a princess Frisbee for my 3 year-old. All and all, a good day. :-)

  57. Loved this post Mandi Gubler!

  58. DI I love thee!!

  59. Okay, I’m heading to St. George! Hopefully those dragons will still be there :)

  60. Mandi, I totally agree with you. I’ve been to A LOT of thrift stores throughout Canada and the US, and they are all basically the same. The trick is going on a regular basis to get the “good stuff”…and I also agree that many times, the “good stuff” doesn’t look so good at first…lol.

  61. Um, my thrift store is totally better than yours, sorry bout that! Saint Vincent DePaul in Green Bay (Vinnie’s to those in the know) is a massive warehouse full of glorious crap. My toddler gets a fever every time we go there. And once my husband was trying on some pants in the dressing room and someone reached under the door and stole his shoe!

  62. Hilarious investigative work! It was nice to see real life photos to back up your statement that every thrifty is created equal!

    I love thrifting, as my boyfriend calls “Junking”,and it is such a thrill to find a treasure. What’s so nice about a thrift store find is that what you envision the piece will be once you are through is entirely individualistic. That is what makes the hobby and the outcomes so unique!

    Thanks for the laughs!

  63. I also have the thrift store addiction and now that I have discovered that chalk paint can be used on brass, glass and material on top of using it on wood. My addiction has increased ten fold. I am in the thrift stores everyday, I know the staff by name, i know what time the truck arrives, what time the girl stocks the shelves with knick knacks and glass wares etc. Yes there are days I come home with nothing but then there are days that I fill the truck. It’s an obsession but I love it. I love you post Mandy, I wanted to be there shopping with you. it looks like a great store. hugs Tobey

  64. angela_D says:

    I love DI. I’ll be sad if I move out of Utah and don’t have one. I’ve heard the one in American Fork is the best in Utah County, though a bit of a drive for me to frequent often. At least mine gets a big new haul at the end of each semester!

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