Articles from July 2015

Thrift Store Review: Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s, Lincoln Heights

2015-07-26 01.47.02Tucked in an industrial area north of downtown Los Angeles which you’ve probably never been to unless Waze has punked you en route to Dodger Stadium is one of the best thrift stores in the city. St. Vincent de Paul’s in Lincoln Heights is warehouse massive, clean, and boasts great prices. It’s among the most comprehensively-stocked thrift stores I’ve ever been in, containing both a snowboard section and a rack exclusively devoted to dog clothing. I don’t 2015-07-26 02.34.38object to dogs wearing clothes per se, but I do resent it when they’re dressed better than I am, so if you shop here for your dog, all I ask is that you don’t rub my face in it if we show up at a social event wearing the same thing.

Overall rating: A

What to buy:

1. Mugs/Cups. There is nothing special about any of the 2015-07-26 02.26.02dishware I saw here — except  the price. The mugs and cups are .49 cents apiece, which is significantly cheaper than even the cheapest new mug you’re likely to find. If you can’t drink out of a receptacle of the Young Ladies Institute of Fresno’s 1993 class with pride, frankly, I don’t want to know you.

2. Pianos. Most thrift stores don’t have the space to store pianos, so the fact that St. Vincent’s has a piano section at all is an oddity in itself. I am no piano expert, but a quick look on SoCal pianos shows their used models start at $395, while the one made of blonde wood was selling for 2015-07-26 01.52.57$250.00. The one to its right, the George Steck, was going for $495, and it appears to be a respectable manufacturer. (They stopped production in the 80s, though some pianos with the name have been issued from China recently. This one clearly predates that). Here’s a thread I found about the pros and cons of buying used pianos, the upshot of which is that it’s worth having a technician inspect it before you buy it. Also, tuning them typically costs between $75 – $125.

3. Ties. In the history of humanity, has anyone ever worn out a tie? Unless the owner has drunkenly paraded himself through a series of wedding receptions or spilled red sauce on himself during an Italian meal, a new tie looks identical to an old one.  2015-07-26 02.11.12Most of these go for $4.99, including a Van Heusen that I picked up at random. New ties from the same designer average around $40.00. You know you’re only wearing it twice, anyway, so why not save a few bucks?

4. Wedding/Quinceanera/Formal 2015-07-26 02.06.37Dresses. It’s pretty unusual to see a large collection of formal dresses at a thrift store, but this place has them. The wedding dresses ranged from $39.99 to $59.99, and  were all in good shape. We can safely assume they were only worn once, if at all.

2015-07-26 01.55.495. Furniture. The furniture was priced fairly. I saw this super cute Mercury vintage sewing machine in its old wooden case for $49.00 which probably dates from the 1950s or 60s. This floral couch was marked at $75.00.2015-07-26 02.27.25

6. Computers. This is the only thrift store I have ever been to where the computer systems were operational and set up for testing.  Each one also has all the relevant specs listed, so kudos to St. Vincent’s de Paul’s for that. I am not a PC person but they were at 2015-07-26 01.56.43least running Windows 7, which is current. Average price was $175.00 for the whole system.

A few other notes:

I give this place a lot of credit for individually pricing their items. Goodwill, for example,2015-07-26 02.14.16 typically has a flat price for all categories of clothing, like women’s short sleeve shirts. This leads to a number of items being overpriced, as well as underpriced. They have different colored tags so items that have been in the store a while are automatically discounted.

2015-07-26 02.36.39Lastly, if you are thinking about making the move to nude beaches, but want to ease into it, consider these brand new bikini bottoms for only $0.59 each. If anyone notices new bikini tops in another thrift store, let me know, and we’ll combine them and make our fortunes!

Thrift Store Review: Council Thrift, Venice Blvd. location

Want to buy used in L.A., but you’re not sure where to start? Let me help you, aspiring shopper. Each thrift store has its own personality and style, like a slightly worn snowflake that may or may not be wildly overpriced. This will be my first review of L.A. thrift stores, with many more to come.

Council Thrift is a chain run by the National Council of Jewish Women. This Saturday I went to the branch near my house at 12120 Venice Boulevard in Mar Vista. It featured an ‘Under New Management’ banner, which seemed odd, until I read the scathing yelp reviews about staff rudeness. I have been to this store on numerous occasions, and hadn’t noticed any of the staff getting out of line, but honestly, unless someone spits on me (so far, so good), I tend to brush it off, so if customer service is important to you, don’t go by me.

The store is well-organized, and has some good deals. In the past I’ve thought them to be pretty expensive — maybe it’s that new management I’m hearing about! Overall rating: B

What to buy:

IMG_20150718_1644435541. Dishes. Never buy new dishes. Seriously. I found an 88-piece set of dishes for $75 marked Berkeley House, which were decent, though not quite top notch. That amounts to less than a dollar per item. Comparatively, this rock-bottom set of 16 pieces of dinnerware from Target will run you $59.99.

2. Shoes. While the Goodwill in posh Santa Monica sells their usIMG_20150718_163337983_HDRed shoes for $15(!) the shoes here start at $6, and I didn’t see a single pair marked above $10. Every time I’ve been there I’ve seen at least a few pairs of high-end shoes like these low-heeled Paolos. (I hadn’t heard of the brand, but I could tell they were expensive, and they are. This pair was a mere $8!)

IMG_20150718_163818027_HDR3. Purses. They start (and mostly stay) at $6! A purse is a great item to buy used, as they are frequently in mint condition, and these were no exception. Probably because older people donate here, there were also quite a few cute vintage ones.

4. Art. Most of the paintings and prints were unexceptional, but there IMG_20150718_171052964were a few treasures, like this pair of paintings of big-eyed kids that were popular in the sixties. Also, if this were an era when I had less restraint, I would’ve snapped up this baby Pope under glass** for $20 in a heartbeat.

5. FurniturIMG_20150718_171138295_HDRe. I didn’t see anything extra special on this trip, but these pine end tables were available for $20/each, which seemed decent. In the past I have found fantastic mid-century furniture and lamps at very good prices. (Again, because it’s not a hip, young thrift store, I think they do IMG_20150718_170642535not always understand the value of these items.) Several years ago I purchased a pair of 70s lamps with slightly damaged shades for $25/each, which was a steal.

What to avoid:

1. Jewelry. I am an avid vintage jewelry collector, and thrift stores overprice their jewelry without exception. Most eighties and nineties costume jewelry is valueless, and ebay is a much better place to buy.

In short, it’s a decent place to shop, but not extra special. There’s almost always some Judaica mixed in the tchotchke section, if that’s your bag. I’ve also noticed guys swarming the vinyl racks (again, it’s old people stuff!) but I neglected to check out the pricing while I was there. I’ll let you know the skinny if I go back!

**My mom notes this is actually the Infant of Prague, baby Jesus, and my grandma had one. I vaguely remember this.

P.S. If you buy used shoes you should certainly clean and disinfect them before wearing them (see post about this below). For those who fear infection, I’d like to point out that even when you buy new shoes in a store, you have no idea who tried them on before you, so you are running the same risk there.

All Things Shoes

IMG_20150715_083831444It is always disappointing when a beloved pair of shoes is rendered unwearable. Running shoes can be dropped off with Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, where they are ground up for use as tracks, fields, and playgrounds. Non-athletic shoes, compromised of much more varied materials, are essentially non-recyclable. Luckily, many shoe issues are solvable, and these tips may keep your shoes out of the trash can for a little longer.

1. Stinkiness. My blue flats recently started exuding an unpleasant odor after I went to Vegas. Don’t judge me, it was literally over 100 degrees every single day! I’m a human being, just like you! No big deal. I  put them in a plastic bag, shoved them into my freezer overnight, and Voila! no more stink.

Stuffing newspaper in them for a few days or spraying them with rubbing alcohol reportedly works as well.

2. Surface Wear. If your shoes are a very ordinary color (black or brown), you can generally pick up a tin of shoe polish for around four bucks, though fancier options are available. Aren’t they always!

3. Wear on Soles/Heels. I often extol the value of tailors and cobblers (I know the word has a Grimm Fairy Tale vibe, but that doesn’t take away from its accuracy), and I will continue to do so here. The tips of the heels on women’s shoes are a bargain to replace. I got them done for around $10 on a vintage pair I purchased. The cost of other work varies widely, but if you feel it’s not worth it to spend $20 to repair your shoes, I think you should consider buying better shoes. Quality is always cheaper in the long run.

All shoes wear out over time, but there are many steps you can take to minimize shoes damage before it happens, including keeping them out of hot and dry places, making smart choices of materials for repairs, and having thin rubber soles put on your shoes as soon as you get them.

Side note: when I was a ‘brownie‘ in the 1970s, the third grade launching pad to Girl Scouts, the brownie handbook contained a variation of the Elves and the Shoemaker from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The overall message was that brownies should be like the elves, quietly doing the work of the shoemaker at night and never taking any credit for it. That incredibly sexist message never sat well with me, even as a third-grader, and it annoys me to this day. I never held it against shoemakers, though, who I have boundless affection for.

It does explain why I never went out to join the Girl Scouts.