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Entries in thrift (10)

Saturday
Apr272013

Nearing the end of the journey--New Jersey and Delaware! 

Today I got to wake up in my mother-in-law's cozy guest room and sleep in a little, since the first store of the day is just down the street.

I have to admit, I've been there every single time I visit her many times before. I love browsing at this store because it has such a sense of whimsy and humor about it. The manager Al decorates the checkout area with fun signage and clever things from the store that always make me smile. And their display window is always dressed up for the season with funny stuff-- a sure bet for a giggle every time I come.

I walk in and immediately start my research back in t-shirts, where I'm half expecting to find some pizzaria tees, and definitely expecting to find some Eagles jerseys. The Eagles don't let me down, including several bearing the proud stains of game day chili-dogs past, and surprisingly there's more New York souvenir shirts than I thought there would be.  

Sometimes going through this section can be like seeing old ghosts, and this one stopped me in my tracks. A vintage souvenir tee from sometime pre-9/11, showing the Twin Towers in all their skyline glory along the Statue of Liberty. 

I take a stroll through knick-knacks where there's a stack of photo frames with photos still in them. A yearbook photo, a prom picture of the same teenager holding hands with his date.

I never quite understand why people donate things like this, it seems so sad. But at the same time, it's an interesting way to meet the people that live around here.

That's right about the time I meet Ken and Becky, who have just found a fun Phillies t-shirt, playing off the Coke logo that reads "Choke" in reference to a game against the Mets. They say they love the "thrift store song" that a daughter introduced them to, tough she's not much of a thrifter herself. Ken says they once even played it on his cell phone as they walked into a thrift store.

I imagine customers in a store going wild (like in the video) in slow motion as Ken and Becky walk in wearing fur coats.

Ken says he wasn't a thrifter until his friend took him to a Goodwill to look around about two years ago. "I found a pair of new Wolverine boots," he said.

He was hooked.

They make a great thrifting team, I can tell, and talking with them only confirms my suspicions.  They say they take photos of stuff on their cell phones and text them to each other when they're on opposite sides of the store and sometimes post them on Facebook. 

And like me, they like visiting stores wherever they go.

"We went to visit family in Delaware and went thrift shopping," he says.  

I also meet Sharon, who says she somes several times a week. "It's one of my hobbies," she says. Today's discount color is yellow, so she's looking to score some half-off goodies. "If I can use it it makes me really happy."

I leave with the Twin Towers tee and head back to my mother-in-law's for a bite of lunch before heading to Delaware. 

About an hour later I'm crossing the Delaware River (for the second time this trip) and scouting out the store in Wilmington.

I know Joe Biden's a donor at the stores here, and I'm curious to see what may have come from his closet. 

As usual, I head right to the tees, where I find some possibly-from-Uncle-Joe epic shirts.

One has a happy face and says "Happiness is a Republican Majority."

Another has a fist drawn on it and says, "Chuck Norris Approved."

A third, from the movie The Hangover 2, has a photo of Zach Galifianakis and says, "Please Address Me As Captain," which I can't help but picture Joe wearing while kicking back with a beer the White House.

The last one, I'm SURE had to have come from his donation bin-- one that shows a Trans Am and says, "Show 'Em The Bird" -- which immediately reminds me of one of the funniest Onion pieces ever done on my favorie gaffe-prone VP washing his T-bird in the White House driveway.

Oh, Joe!   

I'm glad to know we share a love of Goodwill! 

I meet Lee, who the employees here tell me is a regular. And a jokester.  Lee doesn't let me down.

I tell him about the project and he tells me he's a photographer, too. He's found lightstands(!) and camera bags(!) here for super cheap.

Between questions and answers he's doing magic tricks and telling me jokes. First a half-dollar coin appears from no where, then it's gone and discovered inside my coat sleeve. 

I ask what he found today. He tells me "I found a henway."

A henway? What's a henway? 

I feel dumb for not knowing.

He tells me, "I don't know-- about five pounds, I guess."

HA! 

Then he makes my pen seemingly turn to jello in his hands-- then shrink-- only to be recovered fully and put back in my hands.

"I work with children, so I'm a kidder," he says. 

He also buys and sells things online that he finds here. He recently found 1980's era Legos, still in the package that he says are worth an awful lot. And today he's found a Vitamix mixer, and when he tells me how much he paid, I'm incredibly jealous I didn't see it first.

"I like recycling and saving," he says. "It's a treasure hunt."

I get back on my research lap around the store when I hear his voice again. From across the tops of the racks he reappears. 

"You know they say the memory is the second thing to go," he tells me.

Which begs the question-- what's first?

"I don't know-- I can't remember!" he retorts.

HA!

As I head to the checkout with a few cute things I found, I thank the employees for introducing me to Lee. 

One of them recounts a time when she had a long line at the register that was making her a bit anxious, and Lee was there to save the day with jokes and tricks for his fellow customers with children-- who were getting a bit impatient with the wait. 

Aw! 

This just proves my point that thrift stores are some of the friendliest places you'll ever go. 

I get back in the car for the final leg of the day's drive-- and type in the GPS the address to my HOUSE!  

I have to say, if you were driving alongside me today on I-95 you would've been witness to some of the most epic behind-the-wheel dancing I've ever done and felt that cuing up this song on my iPod was pretty apropos after a long three weeks on the road.

I have to say though, I did lean forward a bit when I pulled up to the house, although there was no finish line tape across the street. And instead of celebrating with an epic collapse, I instead went inside for an epic hug-out session with Quincy.

I still have a Goodwill store in Maryland to visit tomorrow, so I'll post that here tomorrow night, but as of now-- the lower 48 are COMPLETE!!

48 COMPLETE!!

 All I have left now are Alaska and Hawaii-- which-- I'd love to do ASAP. So perhaps tomorrow will include some lottery ticket-buying.

Once I parked, I unpacked the car into the living room--which currently looks like a thrift-hurricane has hit it. There was some epic tag-popping going on as I got things sorted. 

I'm so glad to be in my own bed again with a little downtime to settle back into my regularly scheduled life before I go back to work on Monday.

If you've been calling or emailing while I was away and I haven't gotten back with you, I just want to say I REALLY appreciate your support and I'm sorry I just didn't have the brain space to spare for much other than the projet while I was away. Hopefully I can catch up this week.

Tonight I leave you from my favorite red chair with a stack of utility bills at my side and a sleeping, dreaming dog gently kicking at my feet in DC.

Tomorrow, Maryland.

Monday-- work.

G'night, thrifers! 

 

Wednesday
Apr242013

Rhode Island's "thrift store gone bad" and a place for kiddos!

I started off the day with a gorgeous view of Boston from my hotel room, and got a bit of a later start than I'd hoped.

I didn't realize until I was pulling away from the hotel just how close I'd been to Boyleston Street-- just around the corner. Just ahead of me at the stoplight was a fire house with signs paying tribute to the victims of last week's events. 

I pulled onto the interstate heading south, and it didn't take long for me to realize I'd seriously underestimated how far it was to Rhode Island. Again, paying a toll every two feet (or at least it felt like it), but at least I was leaving the city and the traffic was light.

Yesterday, a woman at a toll booth on my way into Boston must have seen the terror on my face when I pulled up to pay-- clearly frazzled from the erratic drivers. She leaned into my car as I paid and said, "You know where you're going, honey?" Luckily the GPS hasn't steered me wrong yet, but the drivers along this portion of the trip are definitely stressing me out.

I pulled into Providence with just enough time to meet up with an old journalism friend for a bite before heading over for a visit at the Khadarlis Thrift Shop for just after lunch.

What I found was truly unexpected.

I walked in and met Aisha, the director. She tells me that sadly, they no longer have a thrift store here. That explains why the letters that spelled "thrift" had been peeled off the awning out front, though the word was still legible. 

"Do you want to photograph a thrift store gone bad?" she asks.

Well now I do-- and now I'm interested in why.

Aisha tells me she was working in health care in 2004 when she decided to take a trip back to her native Sierra Leone after the end of the war there-- to check in on family and see that was happening. She saw the need huge need for funding to help the people there get back on their feet, so she started Khadarlis Thrift Store as a non-profit back in Providence as a way to assist those in need back in Sierra Leone. 

The thrift shop opened in 2007. 

But Aisha was getting requests for assistance more often than customers.

Most weeks the thrift store was only making about $60-- a week. By 2010 she realized this wasn't a thrift store, it needed to be a community center since there was clearly more of a need for it. 

She'd already been organizing folks in the neighborhood to clear the streets of graffiti when one day she got a call from Home Depot. They wanted to assist her efforts and soon there were donations piling up from them in the former thrift store.

Then Bed Bath & Beyond called-- they wanted to assist her efforts in helping neighborhood folks in need of home goods. In came their donations as well. Then The Avenue began donating items, then Guess. 

She leads me to the door to the basement, where she says she now stores all the donated goods that come in. When people come in to the center requesting a certain sized dress or a specific item they need, she climbs down the stairs and digs through the boxes and bags to find it for them. 

I take a few steps down the stairs to see for myself and she tells me to be careful.

With good reason.

The basement is completely-- no joke, floor to ceiling-- full of stuff that's been donated. I get about halfway down the steps when the steps are suddenly overtaken by bags, boxes, bikes and chairs and I can't go any further without crawling across it all.  

Back upstairs, Aisha tells me about all the ways the center is used now. As a place to type up resumes and cover letters, as a place to care for 10-30 kids after school (she makes meals at home with her own money to bring and give to kids each day) and she and her volunteers work with partner agencies in the area, including a women's shelter, a family center and the local Goodwill Youth Center, who works with Khadarlis on a youth job skills training program.  

She even has a list on the walls and photos from the programs in Sierra Leone-- and now Guatemala as well-- that she sends food and other goods to when she can. 

Oh, and she also runs a pen pal program with local students and kids in Sierra Leone. 

It doesn't take long talking to Aisha to know she has a huge heart. She doesn't turn anyone-- or anything away. And even despite having been robbed recently (they took her computers), she's still upbeat about what she's doing here.

"God provides," she said. "I was raised to believe that and I do believe that. If you do the right thing, the rest will fall into place."

As for a return to her old line of work in health care, she just smiles. "The pleasure I get from this, nobody can buy." 

So much for a "thrift store gone bad." I tell her I think this is a thrift store gone even better. 

We hug and say our goodbyes.

Now I'm off to a store over on the East side of town called Hope Returns Thrift and Gifts. 

Inside I meet Virginia, who is running the shop today and helping a customer find a cute outfit for her nine-month-old daughter. This shop specializes in second hand kids items-- toys and clothes-- and also sells some locally made goods. 

The variety in the store is obvious and Virginia says she appreciates that. "I like that I don't open a box of something that's 30 of the same."

She says her customers like buying second hand for both financial and philosophical reasons-- opting to keep their consumption footprint low. "They know they're being kinder to the environment," she said. "And because it's been washed, there's fewer chemicals so environmentally, it's a lot friendlier. 

Like Aisha, she also sees the store as a way to create a sense of community. Except instead of covering graffiti, Virginia's store is open to area mom's groups, who utilize the thrift store as a meeting space after hours. 

 

As for why others should shop secondhand, Virginia knows it's not for everyone. "I understand it's a personal preference," she said. "You'd be surprised that the stuff hanging in your closet is hanging here." 

I have to hand it to you, Rhody-- you had a few twists up your sleeve for me today, but they're both inspiring ladies and their stories show the power of secondhand.  

So I leave you tonight in New Haven, Connecticut where I'll visit a Goodwill store tomorrow before making a bee-line to a friend's house where I can overnight in NYC.  

So send all the good traffic/parking karma you can my way, I'm going to need it!

Nighty-night, thrifters! 

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Miles driven since April 6: 3,640

Miles driven for the project so far total (roughly): 13,140

Monday
Apr222013

Artists and florals and lobster traps-- oh MY!

Today started a bit late, but for good reason. Who doesn't turn down sleeping in and some homemade french toast? 

With some advice on a few scenic route options and a few goodie bags of road food (thanks Bill and Lorrie!) I got on my way heading east-- off to Maine via the Kancamagus Highway.

It may have been a slower way to get there, but I guarantee it was the absolute prettiest way to get there.

After crossing the White Mountains, lakes, rivers, snow-packed landscapes and lots of moose crossings, I finally rolled into Maine in the early afternoon. Driving toward Portland I see a thrift store off the right side of the road in Bridgton. I parked in hopes I could pop in for a few photos and a chat.  

Inside the Bridgton Hospital Guild Thrift Shop I meet Heather, who is stopping in while waiting for her husband Joe to finish up across the street.

She says she's a found object artist and she often looks for items at thrift stores, auctions, and yard sales to incorporate into her pieces. She likes that by using found objects, she's not adding to her footprint as an artist. "It's reusing, it's recycling," she said. "And it supports all kinds of people in the community." 

Her husband Joe comes in to join Heather, and tells me he's also an artist, working in custom airbrush painting.

They've been married for two years and Joe admits he wasn't much of a thrifter before he met Heather. She also loves that he enjoys it with her and doesn't wonder why she's bringing home random finds.  

"I've always loved old, unusual and broken things-- that's why I married him," she said. "It was in our vows!"

She says she's also found some of her best stuff on the side of the road.

Raising three sons as a single mother, she says one of her sons once asked why his clothes had tags on them-- she'd been buying used clothing for them their whole lives that he had no idea that new clothing had tags!

Now that's thrifty!

As all three of us make our way to the door, Heather spots a floral Hawaiian print dress that she tells me would be perfect on me. She grabs it and holds it up to me, I cave in and try it on-- even though I'd been secretly eyeballing it the moment I walked in.

A PERFECT FIT! AND POCKETS!

Done.

I love those serendipitous stops like this where all the stars align-- a great conversation, a great shop, a great dress and great photos!

Back on the road, I set my sights on Freeport, where my friend Matt told me I could find a great thrift shop he once went to that's just across the street from the LLBean outlet. 

Boy was he right!

I easily found the the Freeport Community Services Thrift Store right where he told me it would be, and just as I stepped out of my car, the manager Lynn was standing with a customer in the parking lot. "I like your car!" she said, pointing to my Goodwill stickers. Well that was easy! I give her a quick rundown of the project and she's eager to take me inside and show me around. 

Not only do they have this store, but it's attached to-- and supports-- a community center. Built six years ago, it's housed in three restored historic Mallett houses, which were origianlly built by E.B. Mallett, a Freeport shoe manufacturer. He built about 200 of these homes for his employees to live in during the 1860's and 1870s. Only a few of them remain. 

Lynn takes me on a tour of the building, which also houses a teen center, a food pantry, the town's archives and a giant community room. 

They recently expanded to an annex, which houses their donated antiques and furniture. Lynn hops in her car and tells me to follow so I can take a quick look. 

What greets me as I walk in-- an antique lobster trap. A LOBSTER TRAP!

Hello, Maine! 

You wonderful Subaru-driving, dog-loving, kayak-owning, seafaring, lobstah-trapping, thrift-loving MAINE!

I get a call from Jane, my Goodwill contact in Portland and we make a date for dinner at a place where we can get a tasty lobster roll. She pretty much read my mind.

I have to admit, I've been looking forward to this part of the trip for this exact reason.

With brown sugar butter sauce? Whoa boy, was it tasty! Thanks Jane and crew for showing a gal a good time!

Sure beats eating a sad bag of microwave popcorn in a lonely hotel room.

So I leave you tonight in Portland, Maine, where I'll check out a nearby Goodwill store in the morning before heading south(!) finally to Boston. 

The end of the lower 48 thrift tour is nearly complete-- one week left!

Nighty-night!

Friday
Apr192013

Troy-- The best place to be a thrifty size 8!

Today I woke up in Troy, NY and headed to the nearby Goodwill, which just had a grand re-opening yesterday. I'm partly sad that I missed it, but sort of glad, too since the crowd probably would've given me sensory overload.  

Little do I know I'm about to go into sensory overload anyway.

I grab a cart to put my stuff in and start to browse. I see three new Ann Taylor blazers in a row-- same size. That's strange.

What are the odds?

Then I look a little further-- even more of the same exact blazer.

All new.

All the same size.

Huh.

After about 5 minutes of this, I realize this place is loaded-- no joke-- loaded with donated samples from Ann Taylor, which were almost exclusively size 8 dresses, formals, suits, jackets, tops and slacks.  Never in my life have seen anything like this-- literally hundreds of brand new gorgeous size 8 stuff--or have I ever been so mad that I'm not a size 8, nor can I even remember ever having been a size 8. 

But part of me is glad that there are no double digit samples to be found here, since I'd probably have left at least $300 lighter and be forced to camp in the car the rest of the trip.  

Financial roadtrip crisis averted. 

But I didn't leave empty handed.  What, you think I'd come into this sort of thrifty wonderland and not find a single thing?  

I managed to find one cute, generously-cut size medium Ann Taylor sample top in my favorite shade of mustard yellow that fit. I also found some gold glitter ballet flats, which I think will make this trip feel a little more Wizard of Oz-zy.  

Back in houswares, I stop to chat with Ana, who is pushing a cart full of goodies while shopping with her two-year-old son Thaygo. He's got a tight grip on an Avengers toy he found. She had to drop something off for her husband who works nearby and when she saw the grand opening sign, she had to stop in for a look.

She's been a thrifter for a long while tough. "My friends don't come here. They think it's junk, but it's not, it's gold!" she says, her eyes smiling.

I check out and get back into HaRVey2, pointing him toward Burlington. But first, a lunch stop in Saratoga Springs!  

I sit down at Bailey's Cafe for a salad thats approximately the size of my head. It's been a long roadtrip and I sense I need to eat something that had dirt on it at some point in its life. But looking across the street I see a Ben & Jerry's. I realize I'm about to enter Vermont-- land of cheese, ice cream and maple syrup.

This is going to be trouble.

After lunch I head to Second Hand Rose Thrift Shop in Schuylerville, New York, which sits right along the upper Hudson and the Lake Champlain Canal.

I walk in and meet Charlotte, who manages the store. Even at age 86, she's the oldest of the seven volunteers here, working five days a week, five hours a day. The store's been here for 12 years and donates to the local fire, rescue and ambulance squads, as well as funding small scholarships for local high schoolers. Last year the stuff they sold in this store provided them with enough revenue to donate $12,000 back into this little community.

She says they've had everything come through the store. "From thimbles and needles to horse collars and skis," she said.  "It's amazing what people donate." She's a bit shy and didn't care to be photographed, but the store itself was a maze of rooms and stuff lining every square inch of floor, shelf, and wall. They even have a big Christmas room, which she says is a popular attraction during the holidays. 

I'm looking around and pretty close to closing time, so I try to get as many photos and angles as possible before it's time to lock up for the night. Back in HaRVey2, I set my sights on Vermont. 

The roads are small and slow, but I didn't mind at all. With the clouds and rain finally giving way to a warm glow of the impending sunset, I find myself navigating roads alongside lakes with gray layers of the Adirondacks off to my left, hazy in the late day sun.

At one point I feel a rush of joy just looking around me while I drive--I start to think how happy I am-- that this project is nearing completion, that this crazy idea has actually happened, that it's taken me to such gorgeous places and allowed me to meet such amazing people along the way. I realize this is one of those drives that will stick with me for the rest of my life. It's just so gorgeous.

Just as I'm thinking this, I realize I'm stuck behind a septic truck who is going terribly slow-- and I don't even care. It's giving me more time to admire this place and be present for a minute. A rare occurance on a lightning-fast roadtrip like this one.

A map of the project's progress since 2010.It's been a tough week, America.

I've been following the news. 

But as usual, there are always beautiful things like a sunset drive on a beautiful road and a great conversation with a totally random stranger to remind us that for all the crazy that goes on around us, there's an equal amount of awesome to behold.

I leave you tonight just outside of Burlington, Vermont where it's raining a nice soft rain tonight. I'll take a look at a few stores tomorrow in this area tomorrow, and if time allows, make a quick tour of the Ben & Jerry's Factory in Waterbury as a cheap Saturday night treat for my road-weary bones. 

Total miles driven since DC: 2,874.  

Total miles for the project since 2010 (roughly): 12,374

Thursday
Apr182013

Thrifting is Scrantastic!

I woke up to a storm front encroaching on my hotel window and had to convince myself to get out of bed. Being on the road is hard, especially since I'm really missing my furry four-legged alarm clock.  

Heading out to my first stop, I hit standstill traffic right at the bottom of the on-ramp toward Scranton.  It took me about an hour to go 3 miles. 

Deep breath.

And then it started raining.

Second deep breath.

But pulling up --finally-- to the Goodwill store off of Keyser Avenue in Scranton immediately lifted my spirits. Once inside I head immediately to t-shirts, red ones. It seems the red ones have been holding the real treasures lately.

After pulling back two or three, I stumble onto the most fantastic, or should I say SCRANTASTIC t-shirt I've seen! In my cart it goes-- even if it is a small. This is too awesome. Someone will want this. (Hello, Chelsea!) It must come home with me.

A few more down and I spot an "I (liberty bell) PA" shirt that's equally fantastic. It goes in, too.

Scranton! You're on a roll!  

I decide to see if the men's t-shirts can offer up any equally awesome finds. Sure enough, in the section of grays, I find one that says "Ain't No Party Like A Scranton Party." 

That's so money! 

I look down the aisle and meet J.P., a Scranton native who is here on his day off, deciding to pop in for a quick look-through after dropping off his dry cleaning.

He says he's been shopping here for years, and even has shirts he still wears that he bought here 12 years ago. He's looking for suits and vests here today.

"I like dressing up and the cheaper the better!" he says.

 

J.P.While the stuff here is good, he says there's some stores in the Poconos that are pretty awesome as well.

I decide to head back to knick knacks by way of dresses, where I find both handmade and vintage selections. TWO BONUS POINTS! This place is a hot bed of awesome.

In the back corner, thumbing through the records, I meet Dave, who greets me with, "You like taking photos?" I'm sure the Nikon beast on my shoulder gave that away.  He says he likes to come in and look at the music selection available. Not only are there CDs and records, but also tapes AND 8-tracks! Holy media time capsule, Batman!

He says he'll get records and even some tapes, but won't go for the 8-tracks, mostly because he doesn't have a player anymore. He comes in a few times a week after work.

He says Scranton has changed a lot in the last 30 years, with New Yorkers and other city-dwellers moving in and making it a little higher-paced place to live.  

DaveHe looks through the records like he's going back in time. "The 1980's were like my 1960's, you know? They were my best years. I graduated high school in 1985."

I ask him how long he's been shopping here and he greets me with a very smile and priceless answer. "When I started not having much money!"

Touché!   

I take a lunch suggestion from J.P. and head down to Thai Thai for lunch, where I spot "Pad Macaroni" on the menu.

Oh, Scranton. You had me at hello

One skill I've gotten really good at on my lunch breaks during this trip is Instagramming/emailing with my left hand while eating lunch with my right.

Sure the other patrons might stare in horror, but I'm a) getting a lot done and b) probably going to be ambidextrous by the end of this trip. I take that as a win-win.

I hit the road again with my sights set on Kingston, NY, where I see a thrift store on Google Maps.

It rains.

I drink too much soda.

I make too many pitstops.

The usual.

I get into Kingston and navigate to my "thrift store" which turns out-- sadly-- to be more of an antique store in disguise.

It's actually a lot harder than you might think to spot what I think of as a true thrift store. When you type "thrift" into Google Maps, it brings up anything from real thrift stores, to consignment to antiques-- even second day old bread stores and AMERICAN APPAREL stores for some reason.

WHY? As though I needed another reason to avoid that place and all its size 2 leotards and leggings, this annoying little reason is yet another. 

With nightfall coming quick, I cut my losses and head back to the interstate a bit sad but anxious to get into Troy for the night, where I'll hit a Goodwill store in the morning.  

The road through Albany is right along the Hudson-- and for this river girl, it's a sight for sore eyes. I've never been through this area of New York before but I've always wonered what the Hudson River Valley might look like.

I managed to find a decent, but sorta pricey, place to stay tonight in downtown Troy. The strange stains on the carpet that trail toward the bathroom and intermittent banging coming from the room below mine are somewhat concerning, but at least the bed is soft and the wifi is somewhat reliable. 

Tomorrow-- Troy and upstate!