New Yorkers put their own spin on nearly every endeavor. Thrift stores are no exception. Let’s look at just one player in the city – Housing Works, with 13 thrift stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, medical centers and its bookshop/cafe in Soho, all dedicated to supporting people living with HIV/AIDS.
There are so many events at these establishments that Housing Works recommends you sign up for its free newsletter to keep track. The MOTH Story Slams, for example, take place in its Soho bookstore, as does the PEN America Best Debut Short Stories of 2018 (upcoming on Sept. 24).
In another unique move, shoppers are encouraged to become paid members of Housing Works. There are eight membership levels, from $60 to $5,000. For thrift shoppers, its “Advocate” level makes the most sense. Its $120 yearly fee offers a 30 percent discount on a first purchase and 25 percent discounts every Sunday. You also get a 30-minute early access to its popular Best of Spring and Best of Fall fashion events.
You might ask, why would I pay (a mostly tax-deductible) $120 when I’m trying to save money by shopping resale? The membership plan might not make sense elsewhere, but in New York, where unusual and expensive clothing is plentiful, that’s what makes up the inventory in Housing Works stores. The shops also contain accessories, books, jewelry, home furnishings and art, and they are several grades above what’s typically found in non-metropolitan thrift stores.
You also can shop online, at www.shop.housingworks.org. Its higher-end merchandise, from Alexander McQueen, Isabel Marant, Claude Montana, Prada, etc., are found there, in buy-it-now purchases and in auctions. Prices range from $25 to $400 for top designer and new clothing, furniture and accessories.
We happened by the Second Avenue and 64th Street store right as it opened on a day it featured signed copies from its donated book collection. For $5 each, we acquired signed first editions written by Ann Patchett, Tracy Kidder and Donna Hanover, the second Mrs. Rudy Guiliani, whose 2005 book detailed her happy next marriage to her college flame (My Boyfriend’s Back: True Stories of Rediscovering Love with Long-Lost Sweethearts).
One of Housing Works’ best-known events is Design on a Dime, held since 2004. Interior designers donate their time to create room vignettes using donated furniture and housewares. The items are then sold at “charitable” prices to ticket-buying attendees. The event has raised $15 million since its inception, calling on the talents of more than 100 designers and the wallets of some 6,000 patrons. In 2016, a second Design on a Dime event was added in Miami.
For clothing, the annual Best of Spring and Best of Fall fashion events are so popular that many shoppers join Housing Works just to get that 30-minute jump on the hordes looking for bargains. A major fashion show, Fashion for Action, is held yearly and will fall on Nov. 8 this year.
All this enterprise supports vital housing and medical care, plus Housing Works’ advocacy offices in New York City, Albany, Washington, D.C., and Haiti.
As the list below shows, you are never far from a Housing Works thrift store in New York City. Find details at: housingworks.org.
Second Avenue and 64th Street – 1222 2nd Ave. 646-975-5905. Open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Other stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn:
Upper East Side – 1200 Lexington Avenue
Columbus and 74th Street – 306 Columbus Avenue
Yorkville – Second Avenue and 90th Street – 1730 2nd Ave.
Broadway and 96th – 2569 Broadway
Gramercy – 157 E. 23rd Street
Hell’s Kitchen – 732 9th Avenue
Chelsea – 143 W. 17th Street
West Village – 245 W. 10th Street
Tribeca – 119 Chambers Street
Soho – 130 Crosby Street (the bookstore/cafe is at 126 Crosby St.; 212-334-3324)
Park Slope – 266 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn
South Slope – 424 7th Avenue, Brooklyn