August 17 was National Thrift Store Day — a holiday I found out about a week afterwards. While there are a host of bizarre and little-known holidays, like National Beheading Day on Sept. 2 (thank goodness that one is past), Blame Someone Else Day on Sept. 13 (always the first Friday the 13th of the year) and Chaos Never Dies Day on Nov. 9, I’m actually going to celebrate National Thrift Store Day with this column because I appreciate the way thrift stores serve the community.
I’m not a regular thrift store shopper, but they always seem to have what I need when I need it and at a low enough cost that I don’t mind if an idea doesn’t pan out. My dog is currently sporting a long-sleeved pink and white striped T-shirt. She hates it. But, after minor surgery on her front leg, she was put into the dreaded cone. With 100 degree heat and typical terrier attitude, the cone was not a good option, so I followed the vet tech’s advice and found a toddler sized T-shirt for 54 cents at Snowline’s thrift store. After the guilt-free removal of one arm and extra material, it was a big improvement over the cone of silence.
I needed a quick Fairy Grandmother costume for a Cinderella carriage ride with my granddaughters. A trip to another of Snowline’s thrift stores turned up, not the prom gown I thought I would have to magically transform, hopefully without any sewing involved, but a perfectly sized blue velvet princess dress, a wig, wings and a wand — all for $18.
Creative crafters and artists know all about thrift stores and what a boon they can be for materials: vintage flatware for jewelry, frames for pictures, glassware and dishes to repurpose into yard art, yarn and ribbon for embellishment and stacks of baskets to build gift baskets. Once, in Michigan, I went into a store where old board game pieces had been turned into decorative items — all from garage sales and thrift stores.
My husband picked up a pan lid that he uses to steam the food he grills on the barbecue. He is inordinately proud of his acquisition, which probably cost a dollar. He’s also picked up some brand-new, high-quality barbecue tongs.
He has a friend who continually mines a secret Goodwill thrift store in Sacramento for brand new Tommy Bahama shirts and upscale golf togs.
When a holiday comes along, thrift stores and the Dollar Store are the first places I go to look for things to build table centerpieces or to fluff out my decorating theme. Thrift stores are also a terrific place to buy The One-Hit Wonders — things you only need once for a specific purpose.
Omnivorous readers have a resource for reading material in a thrift store book section and, for teachers, thrift stores are a great place to pick up musical instruments, materials for class projects or children’s books to flesh out a class library.
If you have a puppy, it can be hard to keep them in toys as puppy teeth can shred anything on the planet. Buying a stuffed animal at the thrift store for 50 cents that will be torn to ribbons in 15 joyous minutes is a lot more cost-effective than the $5-$10 toy from the pet store. The result is the same. Don’t buy the ones with eyes you can pull off.
While I was prowling around the thrift store with my dog’s future wound covering in hand, I saw a display of walkers, canes, crutches and medical paraphernalia. It looked like Lourdes where the miraculously healed have flung off their no-longer-needed aids. But those aids might be helpful for someone who needs a walker for a few days after surgery, or crutches after an injury. Sometimes insurance covers those things; sometimes it doesn’t, and you only need them for a short time. A senior on a fixed income who wants to see if a walker would work for them can experiment for a low cost.
As crafting, costume providing, library building, experimentation, holiday and pet toy solution centers, thrift stores are a great asset to a community, especially since they also help reduce our landfill. Thrift stores whose profits go back into the community for a purpose, like those of Snowline and Partners in Care, are even better. It’s no longer National Thrift Store Day, but you can celebrate any day you want to.
Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.