This year my sister-in-law has decided to purchase all her Christmas gifts from thrift stores. And I, budget-lover extraordinaire, have decided to challenge myself to do the same for some of my own gift purchases. Over the few weeks between now and Christmas, I’ll be delving into the world of thrift stores, and you will benefit from the knowledge I gain. I’ll tell you what to look for, how to bargain, what to avoid, and will make you a thrift store expert before you ever have to set foot in one.
Before you get overly impressed, I’ll admit thrift store and antique mall shopping are not my expertise or my preference. And as a bonus, I have dust allergies and being in most thrift stores for too long makes me all itchy, sneezy and antsy (Oh dear, I sound like a group of Snow White’s dwarves — not good). Also, I tend to get overloaded and impatient with the sheer amount of items in most antique stores before I ever find anything worth plunking down my Christmas Cash for. So when I say Christmas Thrift Store Challenge, I mean it!
Read on for my first store review and tune in tomorrow for thrift store solutions for the culturally-aware family member. Even if you aren’t in the Little Rock area, these tips will help you brave the huge and treasure-crowded thrift store nearest you.
Store #1: Mid-Towne Antique Mall
This weekend the women in my husband’s family and I hit up Mid-Towne Antique Mall (at the corner of Markham & Rodney Parham for all my interested Little Rock readers). On our way, my sis-in-law described this store as a “museum-like shopping experience.” And it is exactly like that. There are a multitude of old (a.k.a. dusty) and interesting things to see.
But after spending a couple of hours in the store, I came up with my own simile. Yes it is like a museum, but it is also like a treasure hunt. Except in this case, there is no map, no x marks the spot, and no talking parrots. No, a shopper’s only guide to a treasured Christmas purchase is pure shopping instinct. If you are willing to take a shopping expedition through Mid-Towne Antique Mall, read below for a breakdown of the store.
If variety is the spice of life, then Mid-Towne Antique Mall is super-spicy salsa. And yes, that was supposed to be a compliment (mostly). Like super-spicy salsa, it has a lot of great flavor, but if you are unprepared, you may get overloaded (or burnt?) by all the excess.
So as a warning, the store is huge (over 20,000 sq. ft.) and is divided into hundreds of stalls. Recently they’ve added a back room, giving the shopper even more ground to cover. Each stall features a different vendor, so the selection varies widely in organization, quality, and pricing across the store.
However, it has a solid selection of books, records, DVD’s, dishes, furniture, toys, and vintage clothes you don’t want to miss out on. And other than the slight visual overload, the ambiance is pleasant. I’ve been twice and so far, it has not been overly crowded or noisy. And both times I’ve been able to get into the shopping zone, which is where I needed to be to make headway through the store.
Suggestions for thrift store success:
A patient shopper with a list and a mission won’t come out empty handed. Go in with a general idea of what you are looking for. If not, you may get confused and walk out with something scary or tacky. Like that head made of buttons. Or as I called it, “the stuff of nightmares.”
I suggest only going if several hours can be dedicated to the quest. This is not a quick, ”leave the car running honey,” kind of place. You need to be committed to the experience.
Go in the mood to shop. If you aren’t ready to dedicate the time and effort, don’t go! Save this store for a shopping-mood day. In other words, leave the whiners at home; this includes yourself and most men of the world.
If the endless rows of booths start to get you down, just look around for something hilarious to give you strength to go on. Here are a few examples of what kept me going.
Need a reminder of the presidents through Nixon? Why not buy this lovely 1971 wall calendar. Just don’t tell Smiling Calendar Nixon what’s going to happen in 1974. That wouldn’t make such a pretty picture.
Oh, and I bet you have misplaced your plastic, light up Frankenstein yard decoration or your R2-D2 cassette player. Have no fear, I’m sure they are still sitting on their shelves at Mid-Towne Antique Mall, ready to be taken home, or to be used as an amusing conversation piece with your fellow shoppers.
But really, it is the interesting booths that keep a weary shopper going. One of the best booths featured a vendor who took old things and made them her own. She created the cutest stockings and quilts out of scraps of old coordinating fabrics. Several vendors bent the idea of antiques by taking old things and making them fresh and tempting. Finds like that make the rest of the searching worth it.
Until next time, Thrift Store students, remember the 3 “Gos” .
Go with purpose.
Go with time.
Go with an adventurous spirit!