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A guide: Put some character into your look with a trip to the thrift store in Charlotte

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  • Where to shop

    • Junior League of Charlotte Wearhouse: 1117 Pecan Ave., 704-377-1854, jlcharlotte.org.

    The JLC Wearhouse is a combo donation/consignment store, so you’ll find a little bit of everything. It even has a frequent shoppers card that gets you extra discounts.

    • Kitsch-y-Cool Vintage Clothing: 4450 South Blvd., 704-529-6369, kitschycoolvintage.com.

    Cool vintage duds for men and women from the ’40s through the ’80s and every other look you can imagine from “Mad Men” to mad hippie. Tip: They get new stuff in every Friday.

    • The Rat’s Nest: 442 E. 36th Street, 704-371-3599, facebook.com/Ratsnestvintageclothes.

    Apparently the place to come to cultivate a pearl-snap shirt addiction, The Rat’s Nest has a great collection of vintage Western wear. So if your wardrobe is screaming for some old-school cowboy boots or a PBR work shirt, this is the place for you.

    • Goodwill Industries Thrift Store: 1004 S. Church St., Lowell, 704-824-1322, locator.goodwill.org.

    Hey, if it’s good enough for Macklemore, it’s good enough for us. If you’ve got $20 in your pocket, this is the place to pop some tags. Also, Goodwill is everywhere, so hit some small towns.

    • Plato’s Closet Charlotte: 10215 University City Blvd., 704-717-2972, platosclosetcharlotte.com.

    Plato is a solid consignment option, especially for teens and 20-somethings (that’s their speciality). They have locations all over the state.

    • The Salvation Army Family Thrift Store: 11328 E. Independence Blvd., Matthews, 704-814-7031, satruck.org.

    Like many thrift stores, Salvation Army uses a portion of profits to help others. Proceeds help with adult rehabilitation, which includes work training. So those skinny jeans or the cast-off Chuck Taylors that complete your hipster look may also help someone get a job.

    • Carolina Value Village: 2917 Freedom Drive, 704-393-3492, carolinavaluevillage.com.

    A good all-purpose thrift shop with locations in Gastonia, Kannapolis, Greensboro and other places.

    More resources

    • Many thrift shopping bloggers swear by thethriftshopper.com as their source for discovering consignment and resale stores in their area.

    • The free iPhone app ThriftBuddy lets shoppers make wish lists and locate nearby stores, garage sales and flea markets.



If shopping is a sport, then thrift and vintage shopping should be considered an Olympic event. It requires patience, concentration, a keen eye and plenty of practice.

Luckily, there are plenty of venues for training. Secondhand clothing stores abound in the Charlotte area, offering bargain wares and vintage duds as well as high-end designer consignment merchandise.

Before you head out, become familiar with the types of secondhand stores – each with important differences that budding thrift-shoppers should know.

Consign or go thrifty?

Most thrift stores, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, are donation-based and sell items for low prices, usually to benefit a nonprofit organization.

Independent rapper Macklemore made Goodwill cool after his hit “Thrift Shop” blew up on the radio and Internet.

“I wear your granddad’s clothes/I look incredible,” he says in the chorus. Plus, the prices at thrift stores are a fraction of the price for the same or similar item in a department store, he notes – and the thrift store clothes have more character.

Consignment stores are similar. They pay customers for clothes or other items and examine each piece for quality. These stores are slightly more expensive than thrift shops, but still way below department store prices.

Consignment is also more curated, so there is less stuff to dig through.

Allie Vick, who works at St. John, a women’s boutique in SouthPark mall, loves shopping at thrift stores. “I have been thrifting ever since I got my driver’s license – over 10 years ago,” said Vick. “I love to thrift because it’s an adventure. It’s like a treasure hunt, you never know what you’re going to find.”

Christi Schiavo, manager of Kitsch-y-Cool Vintage, deviates from the consignment model, stocking her Charlotte store with items purchased for her by buyers from estate sales and other sources outside Charlotte.

“I buy in big bulk,” Schiavo said. “Typically if I can buy in bulk of 100 pieces or more, I can keep my prices lower for the customer.”

Schiavo prices her stock on a “good, better, best” scale.

“Based on rarity, condition, coolness factor and what I pay for it,” she said. There is some flat pricing, though. “Members Only jackets are all $24.”

Vintage shops are also usually higher quality than thrift stores, and carry items that span the decades – usually from the ’80s or older. Shoppers will find old pieces in like-new condition or repurposed pieces from long ago. These stores have higher prices, though are still relatively inexpensive.

A common feature of resale shops is disorganization, but don’t get discouraged.

Hoards of decades-old clothes may occupy bowing clothes racks, and tangled handbag straps may hang off walls.

Embrace the experience

Vick suggests you know what you’re looking for before you dive in.

“Study the trends. It’s really nice to have an idea of what you want when you go to the thrift store because it can be overwhelming,” she said. “Look in places you wouldn’t normally look. A lot of time the workers will stick things in the wrong places.”

She also recommends checking for holes and stains.

Jamie Powell, an avid thrift shopper and designer who manages the Cat Banjo boutique in Raleigh, says that despite the overwhelming amount of stuff, it’s important to dig through everything to find treasures.

Powell’s No. 1 tip: Shopping for thrift outside large cities is a great way to find cool stuff. “Small town random thrift stores have the best stuff,” she said.

Patient thrift store digging pays off, though. Vick says she rarely shops even in higher-end consignment stores now.

“Once you’ve paid $3 for something, it’s hard to pay $19.99 for a dress,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like a deal.”

Stewart: 919-829-4568
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