Fred Price, right, thanks Ronald Coleman for a parking courtesy as they shop at Next-to-New Shop at Trinity Church in downtown Toledo. One of the nice aspects of shopping in a thrift shop, Coleman says, is that customers are more courteous and more pleasant. Proceeds from the shop go to local ministry partners.
The idea of buying clothes at a second-hand store repulses some people, but for those who don’t mind perusing items that somebody else once owned, visiting used clothing stores is much like going to the mall.
It’s not just for the indigent or for others who are facing hard times — people with decent incomes shop at the stores.
"I have run into all kinds of folks," said Mark Harris, director of marketing and development for Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio. "You see everyone shopping here, because it really does help the community as well."
He has observed Goodwill shoppers who are down on their luck as well as health-care professionals and lawmakers. Besides looking for bargains, some shop second-hand stores to benefit the community and environment.
There are three basic types of the stores:
● Thrift shops are typically nonprofit operations that support a charitable cause, such as the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. Their merchandise comes from donors who get a receipt for a tax deduction.
● Resale stores are for-profit enterprises run by owners who purchase items and then resell them at a higher price.
● Consignment shops (whose owners adamantly oppose being labeled thrift stores) sell garments, accessories, and other items for private individuals. Proceeds are split between the owners of the shop and the individual.Betty Hill, owner of Change of Seasons consignment shop in Perrysburg, said stores like hers sell better quality, upscale, name-brand items. "I don’t want to fill my racks with dollar items. Basic for me is $10 to $15, a beginning price," she said.
Karen Christie frequently shops at Change of Seasons thrift shop in Perrysburg for clothing and accessories.
Toledo-area residents who frequent second-hand stores advise checking a store’s return policy, as some have no-return policies, and trying on clothes if there is a dressing room. Some say they air out, machine wash, or dry clean items, including those that appear to have never been worn and that may still have the original department store tags attached.
The three Goodwill stores in Toledo provide job training for people who have some kind of barrier to employment, said Mr. Harris, explaining that the program is funded through store sales. Participants include people with physical and developmental disabilities, former substance abusers and inmates, and injured veterans.
"The whole concept is to help people to achieve independence," Mr. Harris said. "We want to give people a hand up."
Goodwill is one of the second-hand retailers that sells used goods online as well as in stores. Its site is shopgoodwill.com.
There also are speciality stores among second-hand businesses: The Findlay Boutique in Findlay is a Goodwill store with designer and higher-end items that buyers can get for a fraction of the initial cost, Mr. Harris said.
Karen Christie’s drive for shopping second-hand stores for the last 15 years is the result of her frugality. It allows her to donate more to her favorite charities and to pursue meaningful causes and interests. The registered nurse also likes to look for cookbooks in used bookstores.
"I try to be respectful of the environment and try not to waste things," said the Rossford resident. "If something can be used once it can be used again. That’s the beauty of thrift stores."
Retired University of Toledo associate math professor and advisor Fred Price has several favorite second-hand stores. The long-time Toledoan used to only buy in department and specialty stores, but 15 or 20 years ago, a story in The Blade piqued his curiosity about thrift stores.
John Wilson ows Wilson's Furniture in Toledo, which resells used furniture that is a cut above the average thrift store.
"Once you start, you have a regular number of shops where you go to pick up certain things," Mr. Price said.
Depending on what he’s looking for, one shop might have a better selection of some items than another. Patience is especially important when shopping in second-hand stores.
"Sometimes I go looking for a particular thing and I find it, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I am open for what I may find and sometimes I’m just looking," Mr. Price added.
For Christmas, he and a lady friend took a challenge to buy from thrift stores.
"Neither one of us needed anything, so we shopped for $50 worth of goods to exchange, and that worked well for us," he said.
Mr. Price enjoys the friendships he has made with thrift store employees and volunteers. Some help him look for items. They also learn regular customers’ sizes and items they might like.
"There is a culture that develops around people you see in the stores, and what’s also special is developing relationships with the people who work in them, and you really make friends," he added.
A used bookcase is one of Mr. Price’s most prized purchases, proving that these shoppers are likely to buy used furniture, too. Some used-furniture shoppers are looking for a particular style. John Wilson of Wilson Resale Furniture on Dorr Street can’t keep retro pieces because they sell fast.
"I have a lot of people from Perrysburg, Rossford, and Sylvania shopping for the ’60s and ’70s type of furniture," the retired GM Powertrain employee said.
Betty Metz displays various items she has purchased from secondhand stores in her Oregon home.
Furniture and clothing are not all that draw people to second-hand stores.
Betty Metz wants her three adult daughters to have sets of dishes like those she had as a young woman. That’s why the Oregon resident and collector can be found at thrift stores looking for Depression-era glass and other items.
"I do proper teas and it’s fun to have beautiful dishes and things without spending a lot of money," she said.
Her purchases through the years have evolved, she said. When her children were young, she bought them play clothes at thrift shops. Now she buys for her grandchildren, who enjoy shopping with grandmother at the store "with the big blue sign," she said, referring to Goodwill.
To Mrs. Metz, thrift stores seem busier now.
"I have done this for a long time," she said. "I see people of all ages, with little kids and older people, too. I see that maybe business is growing, or it might be the economy, or it might be that [shopping second-hand stores] is more acceptable."
Contact Rose Russell at email@example.com or 419-724-6178.