When you really want to up your bargain-hunting game, try your luck at a thrift outlet. Larger chains of thrift stores have opened up outlet stores in recent years with drastically cheaper prices than in their stores. Some carry items that need cleaning or are damaged, and some simply feature overflow that workers didn’t have time to unpack and price. Clothing is usually heaped in bins, not hung on racks, and the inventory is often completely renewed daily. Items are either sold by the pound or for absurdly low prices. Savvy shoppers discover that outlets can yield jaw-dropping finds.
Recently, Allison went outlet shopping in Palm Springs, CA, with her Minneapolis-based friend Kim Garretson who now spends winters in California. Kim, who creates clever cocktail-themed assemblage art from thrift store finds that he sells to profit prostate cancer research (see his website at cocktailbars.art), has uncanny thrift store radar. He’s found museum-quality art, collectible midcentury housewares, a mountain of cocktail shakers and all the quirky bases and accessories he needs to make his one-of-a-kind cocktail carts.
We started at the nearly-hidden outlet for Revivals, a Palm Springs-based chain of three thrifts that benefit the Desert AIDS Project. On weekday mornings, in the alley behind the Palm Springs store at 611 S. Palm Canyon Dr., clothing is heaped in bins and housewares and artwork are piled on shelves. It looked less than promising, but in less than a minute, I found a very nice watercolor that I got for 50 cents. A few minutes later, I spied a yellow wool women’s blazer with a Neiman Marcus tag. The label was Robert Riel, and the blazer had all its buttons and looked in perfect condition. I bought it for 25 cents. (Turned out it’s a vintage brand. I found the exact blazer and its matching skirt, used, for sale on eBay for $200.)
A few Revivals outlet regulars shared some of their best finds with us. Ron King of Palm Springs was wearing a very cool Davoucci shearling bomber jacket that he earlier snagged there for $1. Similar pre-owned ones are selling right now on eBay for $200. New, the jackets went for more than $600.
Will Jackson of Cathedral City, CA, showed off his leather jacket — 50 cents — and told us about the camelhair full length coat he also got for 50 cents. He was busily packing a large plastic bag with clothing that he would pay $6 for when full. “I can have a whole new wardrobe for $2,” he said, displaying the black leather loafers he got for two quarters and touched up with shoe polish.
Then it was on to the Angel View Clearance Center, in a new building that opened in Desert Hot Springs, CA, in March. Angel View is a nonprofit chain of 20 thrift stores in the Coachella Valley and nearby, all supporting children and adults with disabilities.
All the clothing in the bins turns over daily, we were told. Anything not sold at the end of the day gets recycled, and fresh items take their place. A quick look found some unworn items, like this Geoffrey Beene shirt, and plenty of garments in excellent condition.
The housewares, furniture and accessories were even more intriguing, because many items had not yet been carefully vetted.
Kim’s thoughts: “The clearance centers require a lot of digging, but I think the finds there were overlooked by the sorters when the stuff first arrived at a huge volume. Most of my finds there are still in the bags and boxes they were dropped off in,” he wrote after posting a recent find on Facebook — a Danish Modern brass and teak flatware set by Carl Cohr that he got for $2 at the Angel View center. He saw the same set selling online for $590.
Let us know your outlet finds!