Cape Cod Thrifting

For the second day of our run-up to National Thrift Shop Day on Aug. 17, we take you to thrift shops on Cape Cod. Here is Peggy’s report:

Travel is a terrific way to discover interesting and unusual thrift stores.

One vacationland – Cape Cod – is a thrifters’ delight, as there are 47 shops sprinkled from Hyannis north to the tip of the Cape in Provincetown.

Most are tied to local charities – the kind of smaller thrift stores that are run by volunteers and help support community needs. Many are in charming salt box cottages, including one of the oldest, the Orleans Community Exchange Consignment and Thrift Shop. It began in 1941 as a place where families could swap clothes for growing children during World War II.

It has had five locations over the decades and now sits prominently on Main Street. Sales benefit those who bring in clothes and household items as consignments, but 40 percent of the items are given outright to the shop, with those proceeds going directly to some $35,000 in scholarships to local college-bound students that the shop awards each year. The outright donation items are marked by yellow tags.

If a volunteer works four, three-hour sessions each month, they receive 80 percent of the sales price on their consigned items. If you simply consign and don’t volunteer, you receive 65 percent.

Orleans interior
Two longtime volunteers at Orleans Community Exchange: Lillian McCarthy (left) and Rosemary Abissi

“Are the checks in yet?” asked one consigner, as a volunteer looked in a large green box that holds the consignment proceeds. The shop volunteers are proud that the enterprise helps families recycle their good clothing and bring in extra income.

Thrifty New Englanders, plus vacationing tourists, keep the shop busy. “On rainy summer days, people wait in line to get in,” said one long-time volunteer. “When they can’t go to the beach, they hit the thrift stores.”

The tidy shop recently helped out a vacationing family that needed sweatshirts and windbreakers for their three children, as they hadn’t realized how cool August nights can be in Massachusetts. The total bill was $19, far less than buying lesser items at a chain drug store or beach wear outlet.

The Community Exchange is one of four year-round thrift stores in this town of 5,900 people. Just steps away is the Lower Cape Outreach Council’s Hope Chest, located right next to the town’s post office. It provides food, clothing and emergency financial assistance to residents in need who live in the lower Cape communities.

Jean Grady
Jean Grady has been a volunteer at Orleans Community Exchange since 1978.

Both stores are scrupulously clean, well organized and have many new items with the original sales tags on them.

The Cape Cod Council of Churches in Hyannis publishes a guide to the 47 shops that can be found in shops throughout the Cape. The shops’ proceeds benefit hospices, cancer care, community health centers, food pantries, church outreach, local nonprofits and the Cape Cod Hospital. (The council’s address is 49 Route 28, PO Box 387, West Harwich, MA 02671.)

These homegrown thrift and consignment stores are a win-win. We enjoy frugal shopping and feel good about the charitable work being supported.

  Orleans Community Exchange, 64 Main Street, Orleans, MA 02653. 508/246-1143. Open Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

The photos below are of two other Cape Cod shops we visited, Wicked Thrift in Yarmouth, MA, and Brewster Thrift Store in Brewster, MA.

Yarmouth, MA

Brewster, MA

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