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Skip 5th Avenue and head downtown

January 29, 2010

OK, OK. So I know it has been forever since I’ve last posted, so first off my apologies for being sketchy. Adjusting to a new city and a new job has been crazy — and as I’ve (painfully) realized, my shopping budget is going to have to be cut. Drastically. Like . . . to almost nothing, for a few months. It has been a huge shock financially and I didn’t really know what to do with myself at first besides stand in front of display windows crying. (Just kidding. Sort of.) But! This does not mean that I can not at least explore the potential for future thrifty adventures here.

Yesterday after work on my way to the subway, I was asked a question by a tourist that gave me the inspiration for this post. Normally, if someone asks me how to get to Times Square or the Empire State Building, I respond with an eyeroll and a half-assed answer. But this guy surprised me. I was more than happy to answer his question while I strolled past Zara and Diesel on Fifth Avenue. He asked: “Do you know of any other good places to shop besides around here?”

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I’ll admit, when I came to New York on vacations during the ages of, say, 15 — 18, I went straight to Fifth and Madison with my family for shopping simply because I didn’t know any better. And it is something to do once or twice for fun. Walk around Tiffany’s, gawk at the price tag on a plain Ralph Lauren T-shirt at Macy’s. It’s ritzy, glamourous, and for a few hours makes you feel expensive. But when you live here, you can only afford that kind of shopping if you’re making six figures. I think it’s obvious my income is way below that.

During summer ’08 and over the past few weeks looking for bedroom decor, I’ve been to a handful of thrift stores throughout the city. I’ve researched online, looked through guidebooks and asked around. I’ve found some great ones where even if you can’t spend a lot, it’s so much fun just to go and look around. Here are my faves thus far:

1. City Opera Thrift Shop, 222 East 23rd Street

Proceeds go to: Supports the design and creation of costumes for New York City Opera

I can spend hours in here just looking around. The clothing ranges from outrageous older pieces to totally wearable modern ones. However, the prices, though heavily discounted, aren’t exactly dirt cheap. The real finds here are the old vintage photos, and huge collection of books and knick-knacks. There was a refrigerator there from the ’50s last time I went. The store is also huge — there’s 2 floors so you’re not fighting for space with everybody. And, as the name implies, opera playing in the background!

2. Tokyo Joe’s, 334 East 11th Street

Space is tighter here than Trader Joe’s at rush hour. But another really cool find. I went here on a rainy day once and my spirits were immediately lifted. Find old barely worn Dolce & Gabbana pieces, Marc Jacobs and a handful of designers I’d never heard of. Amazing shoe selection. Again, these are vintage designer pieces, so they’re cheap relatively speaking, but this is more of a one-time-splurge, night-before-the-big-party kind of shop.

3. Arthritis Foundation Thrift Shop, 1430 3rd Avenue

Proceeds go to: The Arthritis Foundation, NYC Chapter

Whoa! There’s a decent thrift shop on the Upper East Side!? Yes! OK, so I’m a little biased on my favoritism toward this one because it’s only a 10-minute walk from me, as opposed to trekking it on the subway downtown. But I was pleasantly surprised when I came here. Awesome collection of knick-knacks and home decor, as well as decently priced clothing. I got a little framed picture for my room and a candle holder for $6. The ladies that work here are so nice, too!

4. Angel Street Thrift Shop, 118 West 17th Street

Proceeds go to: Funds toward programs that help NYers with substance abuse, mental  illness and HIV/AIDS

Truly amazing selection here and fabulously priced. I got a 3×5 foot canvas here for my bedroom wall  for $20. Lots of vintage jewelry, photos, and records. The staff is really friendly and the inside is surprisingly very pristine. You can tell they actually take time putting together the glass countertop displays and cleaning and dusting everything, which is surprising for a thrift shop. Clothing is constantly replenished here with new donations daily. (There’s also an Angel St. Thrift in Brooklyn.)

5. Goodwill, 88th and 2nd Avenue, + several more throughout NYC and the boroughs

Proceeds go to: 85 percent of proceeds go to various programs and needs

You guys know I couldn’t have a list of favorite thrift stores and not include Goodwill. So I know Goodwill isn’t trying to impress anybody, but my local one (on 88th and 2nd) cracks me up. Stuff thrown together everywhere with no coherent thought. It makes my Atlanta Goodwill look like The GAP, organization-wise. I still love it anyway. Snagged a John Lennon “Imagine” poster here and a decorative basket here the other day.

So if you happen to be in the city, go to Fifth if you must, but definitely check these places out for something different. Still on my list of thrift stores to go to: 17@17, Housing Works Thrift Shop and Ina. Housing Works is supposed to be a thrifter’s mecca, and Ina is supposed to be very Sex and the City-esque.

“Girls do not dress for boys. They dress for themselves, and of course, each other. If girls dressed for boys, they’d just walk around naked at all times.” — Betsey Johnson
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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 9:13 am

    Check out http://vintagewhere.com, which compiles listings of vintage and thrift stores all over the country. It just launched a few weeks ago, and I was thinking of blogging about it at some point. Also, I’ve heard Beacon’s Closet (in Brooklyn) is AMAZING.

    • omgitsjpax permalink*
      January 29, 2010 10:58 am

      Awesome site — what a great idea! And I’ll definitely have to make a weekend trip to Beacon’s Closet now that you and JoAnn have both suggested it. I need to get to know Brooklyn a little better anyway.

  2. January 29, 2010 10:11 am

    I loved this post! (And I hope you’re adjusting well!) I didn’t get to do too much thrifting while I was in the city, but I remember Tokyo Joe’s being pretty awesome. If you get a chance, you should try Beacon’s Closet. There are two of them in Brooklyn (I’ve only gone to the smaller one, but I hear the big one is amazing), and they have really cool, decently priced clothing.

    • omgitsjpax permalink*
      January 29, 2010 10:59 am

      I’ll definitely have to go there soon! Thanks for the tip!

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