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:
1. 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 used 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!)
3. 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 were 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. Furniture. 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 not 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.