Seeing as the average American family has 2.5 children, and 1.5 of them are hipsters, we all know that thrift stores can be viable sources of fashion. If you don’t subscribe to the chunky sweater state of mind, however, you may not be aware of the quirky and adventuresome surprises you can find in a secondhand housewares department. If you are reading this through thick-rimmed glasses perched atop your delicate nose, please do not take offense and tell your 90-pound boyfriend on me. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with my fun-poking…
At Clark, we’re lucky enough to have a student-run thrift store right across the street. It’s like borrowing cool clothes from 2000 people instead of your two friends who are also the same size as you. And it’s for keepsies.
Salvation Army, Goodwill and Savers are the more-or-less national staples. In terms of kitchenware, they obviously have bigger selections and full dish sets people have donated for your matching convenience. I’ve found Savers is the most “pricy” at $2-$3 a plate rather than $.50-$1 at Salvation Army. The downside here is that no one has sorted through everything to say “that’s silly, no stylish young people want white china with pastel flowers on it,” so that can be a letdown.
Smaller boutique-style shops, like Alexis Grace Consignment Boutique in Worcester, have this savvy but usually focus on clothing with a very limited selection of housewares. I have, however, found some charming knick-knacks and say it’s worth a shot. These stores are also more expensive and throw around the word “vintage.” Some take it a bit far, but Alexis Grace is fair and their costs still rival inexpensive offerings at Target and the like.
In my frequent aisle-browsing, I’ve come across some repeat-offenders who always seem to find their way to the scattered shelves and oftentimes into my home where I usually wash before using but sometimes not. Yeah, try to wash them first.
**Tips and Tricks**
Cocktail glasses. Some people drink like there’s no tomorrow, but I drink like I should have a cool cocktail glass in my hand. Pretend you paid $30 for two refills of vodka and cranberry juice when you sip from a secretly cheapo pink glass instead of a red cup.
Tea paraphernalia. Tea cups, pots and kettles are plentiful at thrift stores, probably due to the cultural notion that tea is for old ladies, and old ladies eventually end up with more bric-a-brac than they know what to do with. Carry on the legacy. Choose a day to schedule only morning classes and host a weekly tea party!
Bizarro cake pans. Does your BFF love Dora the Explorer? Would you spend $2 on a Dora cake pan but not $16 at most major craft stores (hey, she’s cheap, too…)? You’re probably in luck! Elaborate flower garden, rocking horse or racecar cake pans love thrift stores. They also have tons of regular cake pans too, which are good. Perform a labor of love by mixing up five different colors of frosting and decorating a cake that will bring smiles and colorful tongues to all your friends. But yikes, make sure to grease and flour the pan very well. Nothing worse than a crumbly, backpack-less Dora. She’s useless without that thing…
Semi-tacky colored ceramics. This is where hipsters have the magic touch. In their hands, tacky and ugly transforms into unique and fabulous with nothing but an air of confidence. The dishes proudly manufactured in the 60’s and 70’s ended up somewhere and that bright and bold somewhere could be under a plate of your (soon-to-be) famous muffins. Some instances of clearly outdated dishware just have that certain something. You’ll know it when you see it.
Also common are grilled-cheese-frying pans, batter-mixing bowls and mac-and-cheese-casserole dishes. Keep in mind the amount of cabinet-space you have, but if you end up going overboard, you can always donate it back later. The thrift store circle of life!
Jen Cantin is pursuing a Masters in Communication at Clark University in the beautiful, yes beautiful, Worcester, Mass. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to all the old crap that no one wants anymore but is still special.