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Tami Cowden Cowden

Stalking the Thrift Stores of Vegas

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Glassware displayPhoto by Tami Cowden
The Salvation Army store showcases
antiques and glassware

No one loves a bargain more than I do. I confess, garages sales are my No. 1 source of incredible deals, but thrift stores come in a close second, and have the added advantage of having more convenient hours. I love browsing through the flotsam and jetsam of faceless donors, looking for that one-of-a-kind treasure to fill a need I didn’t even know I had. My house and even my closets are filled with my finds from my thrifty forays.

Like every city in the nation, Vegas has its collection of Goodwill, Salvation Army and Savers stores. There are multiple locations of each of these across the Valley, although I know the ones in Henderson best. In fact, in the rough vicinity of Stephanie and Warm Springs you’ll find one of each of the big three on the charity scene.

Each of these charity-run operations offers its own particular flavor. The Salvation Army store showcases antiques in addition to the usual assortment of used furniture, clothing and household goods. The Savers focuses mostly on clothing, carefully organizing the articles by type and size, and putting the in-season merchandise up front. I find discarded household goods the most fun to rummage through, so my overall favorite remains Goodwill, whose stores tend to have one or two walls of shelves stuffed with unusual vases and knickknacks, home office accoutrements and holiday décor of all descriptions. In the past year, I scored a sterling silver tray priced at $4, and a few months ago I just couldn’t walk away from a set of oak ladder-back dining room chairs – $10 for the set of four.

Pottery displayPhoto by Tami Cowden
Organized by color, pottery and
collectibles on display at the
Salvation Army store

In addition to these big three, Vegas also has a couple of Deseret Industries stores, where proceeds go to support Latter Day Saints programs. Of the large charity stores, Deseret Industries takes the prize for brightest and most cheerful. The items available here can be rather surprising, too. For example, on a recent visit to the store on East Flamingo, there were so many pianos (five!) that they were selling them at 20 percent off.

Much as I like browsing through thrift stores, I am not a big buyer of thrift clothing. That’s because I wear a size that is, shall we say, atypical. Finding clothing that fits me at a thrift store is a rare event. Still, a few years ago I purchased a navy blue silk suit at a Savers for $20 – a suit I wore to the interview with my current boss, in fact. With that victory in mind, I still occasionally look through the racks. And, of course, all clothing thrift stores are great places for shoppers looking for costumes.

Those of you who wear more conventional sizes have a few upscale options when it comes to thrift stores. While the charity shops rely on donations, resale and consignment stores can be a bit choosier when deciding what will grace their racks. You can find some really cool stuff at a price even the most miserly of clotheshorses will approve,

The young and trendy will likely enjoy the Buffalo Exchange, at Flamingo and Maryland, one of a chain of shops in the western U.S. Unlike consignment shops, where a seller may wait months for her share of the loot, Buffalo Exchange buys, sells and trades directly with the customer on the spot. It carries both men’s and women’s clothing, and I saw a few vintage pieces mixed in with the latest fashions. In keeping with the larger recycling theme, the store offers a nice packaging option: If a buyer chooses a charity token instead of a shopping bag for the purchase, the store donates 5 cents to the chosen charity.

Ritzy RagsPhoto by Tami Cowden
Pam Linder, owner of Ritzy Rags,
displays “lightly worn” Escada and
Chanel

Among the many thrift stores in Vegas, only one, Ritzy Rags Designer Resale Boutique, at Sahara and Rainbow, has actually become well-enough known to be a tourist attraction in its own right. Dorothy, who has worked at the store for two of its 11 years, tells of women who spend $34 for the one-way cab ride from the Strip, just to get the chance to browse through some serious designer bargains. In fact, Ritzy Rags takes the “designer” in its name very seriously. In a recent walk-through, I saw Armani and St. John suits, Escada sportswear, Dior and Valentino bags, and Farragamo and Jimmy Choo shoes, not to mention a few very nice furs. Prices are one-third to one-half of retail prices for the gently used – and sometimes never used – items.

Ritzy RagsPhoto by Tami Cowden
Originally retailing for $2000–a
steal at $650

Most of the store’s merchandise comes from consigners who need to make room in their closets for the latest styles, although there are new items, too. Pam, the store’s owner, travels to clothing shows to find some special buys for her customers. The store maintains a wish list for customers and will call when a coveted item comes in. You can complete your outfit with some serious bling here, too. A complete range of fine and costume jewelry, also consigned, is available. It’s nice to see that even a ritzy store like this one carries a few things in my size, too.

Try out my favorite thrifts, or any of the many more found around town. Like gambling, shopping at Vegas thrifts stores is hit-and-miss. If you go in planning for a big score by finding a particular item, chances are you’ll be disappointed. But if you go in merely hoping for a little fun, you just might come away a happy shopper.

In addition, to the ones I mentioned above, here are some more of my favorites:
Catholic Charities’ St Vincent’s Thrift Stores on East Tropicana Avenue.
Colleen’s Classic Consignment in Henderson.
Opportunity Village Arc Main Street in downtown.
St. Jude Women’s Auxiliary at 1717 E. Charleston Blvd.

If you know of some others, please list them in the Comment section below!

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Comments

9 Responses to “Stalking the Thrift Stores of Vegas”
  1. Great resource article — thrift stores have never held my attention very long, but there are some great tips here. Thanks.

  2. Becky says:

    I’ve just moved to Vegas after a long sojourn in China and can’t wait to get back into thrifting- thanks for this detailed list! I unpacked last night and I’m heading out today to feather my nest.

    Cheers,

    Becky

  3. kelly says:

    new vista emporium thrift store is one of the best places I found to get furniture the prices are unbeatable compared to other thrift stores located at 5220 W. charleston

  4. Gretchen Papez, suggested the Thrift store found at 6446 W. Charleston at Torrey Pines — More info here.

  5. Wolfgang says:

    This is the first time that I hear that Savers is run by a charity. They are a for-profit thrift store rund by a large corporation.

  6. Tami says:

    You are correct, Wolfgang -Savers operates a bit differently from Goodwill and the Salvation Army (although it is probalby not coincidence that Savers’ founder is from the family that organized the Salvation Army thirfts). Savers itself is a for-profit that partners with charities, paying the charities who collect donated items for the second-hand goods sold in the store. Most Savers I’ve been to prominantly post their nonprofit partners.

  7. Pebbles says:

    Thanks so much for the info I love thrifting and have been a fan for years………. I’m thinking of relocating hopefully in the next year or two and hope they’ll still be ther when I do

  8. cna training says:

    Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

  9. Tami Cowden says:

    You’re welcome, CNA Training.

    Sadly, since I wrote the original article, the St. Vincent’s Store on E. Trop has closed, and the Opprtunity Village Stgore downtown suffered a devastating fire. But there are still many fantatic thrifts around. Since my move to Paradise Palms, I am frequently found at the Goodwil and Savers at Trop, between McLeod and Pecos.