Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rising to the challenge

As you may recall, last month I posted about my disappointment that I wasn't able to take part in the Macklemore Thrift Shop Challenge issued by the bloggers at Young House Love because I couldn't find anything at any of the thrift shops in my area, and my hope that the Unique Thrift Store in South Plainfield might yield some better finds. Well, I am pleased to report that I did, in fact, get a chance to check out this store yesterday, and I did, in fact, find a few items there that were purchase-worthy. But before I show you my haul, here's a quick bread-and-butter report on the shop itself:

First, this store is really, really big. It appears, in fact, to be two stores within a big strip mall that have had a doorway knocked into place between them. The larger section is full of clothing and some housewares items (like bedspreads, which I found hanging up on big hangers to be browsed through, like posters at an art store); the smaller section has books, a few furniture items, and some knickknacks, as well as housing the fitting rooms. The selection of clothing is bigger than that at Goodwill, and much better organized. While Goodwill groups items by color, the folks at Unique Thrift actually take the time to sort them by approximate size (small/medium/large/extra large), so instead of looking at every pair of dark pants on the rack, I only had to look at the ones in my general size group. However, I did initially waste a bit of time looking through the larges before I figured out that size 12 was filed under medium. Labeling each section with the specific range of sizes, instead of just the general descriptor, wouldn't take much effort and could save customers considerable time.

The clothing also seemed to be, in general, in better condition that what I've found at smaller thrift stores. Everything was intact, with no stains, no tears (except the artistic kind that some jeans have when new), and no visible wear. Many, if not most, of the items were originally from well-known brands; among those I saw on the racks were Lee, Liz Claiborne, and Express. The prices were also a bit higher than I've seen elsewhere—generally between $5 and $8 per item. Of course, this is still a lot less than you'd pay for the same brands in a department store, but I did notice that when we later popped into Shoppers' World, a discount store in the same strip mall, it had many items (such as T-shirts) that were actually cheaper than the ones at the thrift shop. Their quality probably wasn't as good, but for something that didn't need to be well made, I'd be inclined to check the Shoppers' World first—especially since there's one closer to us down in East Brunswick, not far from some other stores we visit regularly.

This brings me to my biggest problem with Unique Thrift: the location. While it's only, in theory, about a 20-minute drive from us, some traffic snarl-ups made it closer to half an hour, and it's half an hour in exactly the opposite direction from anything else we'd be likely to visit. (There are supposed to be some really good Indian restaurants up in that area, but we already have decent ones that are much closer to us.) It's not a pleasant drive, either, since the most direct route runs through some particularly ugly retail and industrial districts, and the final destination is not exactly pretty: a big, somewhat dilapidated strip mall with a huge parking lot and no empty parking spaces anywhere near the store.

Now, it might be worth making this rather unpleasant drive on a regular basis if the store actually had a lot of stuff that was to my taste. However, despite the large selection, I didn't actually find much that I liked. The entire rack of medium-sized dresses didn't have one in the style I was looking for (a nice, simple floral print, like the one I had years ago that was my go-to dress for weddings, parties and events of all occasions, and probably still would be if I hadn't made the mistake of putting it in the dryer). And after searching the entire rack of medium-sized pants (and the separate rack of jeans), I found only five pairs that looked worth the trouble of trying on. Admittedly, that's five pairs more than I found at the Goodwill store, but given that only one of the five pairs fit comfortably and looked decent, it doesn't seem like a very big payoff for the time I had to spend. (Also, it took me two trips to the fitting room to try on all five pairs, since the store imposes a three-garment limit. Luckily I had Brian there to hold on to my extra items for me.) As for the books and other items the store had to offer, the selection wasn't very impressive. There were some board games, but mostly for younger kids; we found nothing more interesting than an old set of Scrabble Cubes, which didn't look all that different from the Perquackey game we already own.

So in the end, I left the store with only three items:
  • One pair of navy slacks in a polyester/rayon blend with a hint of spandex (the "Audra" by Liz Claiborne) for $7.99. These fit comfortably and are reasonably flattering, as well as machine washable. Their only downside is that they don't have side pockets, just a dinky little patch pocket on the front that barely holds a handkerchief.
  • One black single-button jacket in the same type of fabric, by Apostrophe, for $8.99. This will take the place of my non-petite-size Ann Taylor jacket from my local thrift shop, which turned out to be not much of a bargain at $2 because my local tailor wanted $85 to do the alterations on it. So it will go to a new, hopefully better home, presumably with someone taller who can wear it as is.
  • A set of four paperback Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout, for $2.92. One of these, Fer-de-Lance, we'd already read, but that still worked out to less than a buck a book for the other three, which our local library doesn't have, and we can always Freecycle the extra one.
So as it turns out, I was able to carry out the main part of the Macklemore Challenge after all, putting the "20 dollas in my pocket" to good use at a thrift store. Unfortunately, I realized after we got there that I hadn't thought to bring the camera with me, so I couldn't do the other parts of the challenge: photographing myself with my $20 and photographing all the other items from the "Thrift Shop" song that I could find. Also, since I didn't bring a copy of the lyrics with me, I couldn't check to see which other items from the song's lyrics the store had—although I know I did see at least one pair of "moccasins some one else has been walkin' in."

Post a Comment