Thrift stores are magical places. You can find great deals on pre-used clothing, furniture, appliances, and accessories. The items may be vintage, luxury, or the most unexpected find. With a mix of products, it can be difficult finding the best things for you. Getting discouraged at thrift stores, while normal, can be avoided. The key to locating the best thrift stores and deals is both research and patience.
Knowing where to find the types of items, you’re looking for at a steal is important. Rather than keeping a mental note of thrifts you pass on the way to work, reading a list of the best ones in your area can help. This way, instead of trying to remember which shops you wanted to check out, they’re all in one spot.
Below is a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know about New York City thrift stores. You’ll find information about them, how to find the best items, and some of the best thrift stores in the city. With this guide, you’ll never miss a great deal again.
Thrift Stores History
National Thrift Shop Day which falls on August 17th every year. In preparation for this, learning the history of thrift stores will help prepare you for a day of shopping. The idea of reusing clothes has been around for centuries. In earlier centuries, it was considered economical to pass down clothes from one friend or family member to another. During these times, there was no reason to waste good cloth. This saved money, space, and time for everyone involved. This all changed during the industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution, which occurred between the years 1760 and 1840, was a time of urban growth and development. Cities boomed, and production lines came to play. As mass-production grew, so did the demand for more clothes. They became affordable to create and gave people more options. What also came with the industrial revolution was home size began to decrease. With the need for more industrial space, living space had to shrink. This led to possessions being thrown away. For easier disposal and waste management, pawn shops and scrap stores emerged. These were the early thrift stores.
Still, secondhand stores were not as common as they are today in past times. That’s because it was seen as improper to wear someone else’s clothing items. The stigma of having little money made it difficult for thrifts to grow and expand. During these times, largely Jewish populations housed the “junk stores.” Because of anti-Semitism, they began these companies to make money wherever they could.
By the 1920s, thrift stores became “Americanized.” People began donating their clothes to religiously affiliated shops like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. At this point, the term “junk stores” switched to “thrift shop.” They began to boom during the Great Depression and World War II when people could no longer afford luxuries. Post-war donations were at an all-time high as well, since people wanted to refresh their wardrobe with new colorful clothing.
Today, thrift stores exist in an almost $14.5 billion industry. Studies show that millennials tend to shop at places that donate to charity and provide support for both them and their community. Now, you can even shop for secondhand stores online. With these advancements, there is no end in sight for thrifts.
Thrift Store FAQ
If you’re new to thrifting, it’s likely you’ll have plenty of questions. Here are some of the most common questions about thrift stores and the amazing deals they can offer.
Table of Contents
Why Visit a Thrift Store?
Shopping at a thrift store has plenty of benefits for both you and your environment. First of all, if you’re on a tight budget, you can find some great steals for a low price. Items like shirts, jeans, and even brand-name luxury items are significantly marked down from their original selling price. These can help you develop a new and unique style. Not only can you find clothing, but you can purchase home goods as well. Furniture, appliances, and smaller items like cookware and bedding are typically available. This value means that at a fraction of the price, you’ll be able to furnish and stock your home at the same time. Every time you step foot in the thrift store, it’ll be like a treasure hunt.
Another great benefit of shopping at a secondhand store is how you’ll be helping the community. Often times, thrift stores will give back to people in some way. One way they do so is by partnering with a local charity. For every purchase made, a percentage of the profits will be donated to a good cause. Another way that thrift shops give back is by giving items away to the homeless or those who need them. Regardless, just having a thrift shop is giving back to the community; they provide cost-effective goods for lower-income individuals, thus helping them. Ask your local thrift if and how they contribute to society.
Arguably one of the best parts of thrift stores is how they prevent environmental degradation. Today, nearly 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothing end up in landfills every year. This comes from people throwing away their clothes and products. They are often in good quality and can be worn plenty of more times. When cloth piles up, it can take hundreds of years to degrade. That’s because the amount of plastic found in textiles like polyester and nylon add up. Alternatively, incineration burns chemicals and toxins into the air that we breathe. These issues harm the environment. Whenever possible, shopping at a thrift store can save thousands of pounds of clothing from entering the waste system per year.
Shopping at a secondhand store is a great way to help yourself and your surroundings.
How to Find the Best One
Finding a great thrift store depends on many variables. To locate the best one for you; there are different steps and thoughts you can keep in mind. An important part about looking for your go-to thrift is first found by having a general idea of what you’re looking for. Certain secondhand stores have better options for clothing, while others focus on accessories or home goods and furniture. Knowing what you’re looking for can allow you to get to the correct location. Sometimes, though, just shopping around is the best way to find the greatest treasures. This means that even going into a thrift store, you’re unaware of may lead you to locate great finds.
The next best thing to do is keep your eyes out when walking around your town. This will allow you to pay attention to any thrift stores on your way to your destination. There are hundreds of secondhand stores in New York City, so the odds you’ll cross paths with one is high. When you pass one, either stop in to check it out or make a note of it and visit later. Finding the best thrift for you can be a long process, as there are so many kinds of stores out there. Stick to it, though, and you’ll come across a great treasure sometime.
If the city tour doesn’t work to your liking, reading online reviews is a second option. If you’re looking for a spot closest to you, search by location. This will help you narrow down the best thrift stores in a radius that works best for you. When searching, focus on where it’s located and how easily accessible it is to you. If it requires excessive transportation, consider finding a different option. Once you find a close shop, read common reviews, and determine what products they have. Also, if cost matters to you, look for how they generally price their items. Some locations may charge higher prices for more desirable items than others.
Now that you know how to find a great shop, it’s time to get out there and find some goodies.
What Can You Expect to Find?
Depending on what kind of thrift store you visit, you’re sure to find a ton of different items. For example, some shops focus on clothing, while others may have more furniture, knickknacks, or antiques. It’s best to keep an open mind and make the thrift shop your first stop while shopping. This will allow you to find pieces you may never have imagined getting. Also, it keeps your budget low since thrift prices are often lower than newly purchased products.
Some of the most common clothing items in thrift stores include T-shirts, jeans, jackets, and even shoes. They may be older, vintage, or even new products that were donated. A lot of older clothing sells for cheap. These could enhance your wardrobe and give you a new look. Never pass up on items that have evidence of being vintages, such as older price tags or clothing tags. Also, shoes are often a great find at thrifts. That’s because you won’t have to suffer the pain of wearing them in, as they’ll already be broken in and softer in texture. Clothing is a staple in almost every thrift store, so you’ll likely find something in every location.
Furniture is the second most common items you’ll find at thrifts. The shops often receive them when people move and don’t want to take their pieces with them. Another way these items are acquired is if they’ve been donated from the house of someone recently deceased. As gruesome as that may sound, you can find some great furniture deals at secondhand stores. Couches, tables, chairs, and antique mirrors can furnish your new home.
Lastly, larger and chain thrift stores have many knickknacks. These can be anything from mugs to cookware to figurines. Popular with homemakers and collectors, these items are a great find. At a low price, you can decorate your home with new pieces that stand out.
What to Look for at a Thrift Shop
There are two types of shoppers at thrift stores. The first is the buyer. These people look for deals, items they need, or products they find unique that they will enjoy for themselves. If you fall into this category, keep your eyes out for vintage gear. You can identify them by their tag, which will often have a year printed on it. These are unique pieces that will brighten up a wardrobe in an instant. Vintage gear is rare, worth a reasonable price, and is desirable across a whole range of people. You’re sure to stand out when sporting your “new” clothes.
Also, check out the T-shirt section at your local thrift. They’re often well priced, and you can find some great deals on graphics. Next, if you’re in the market for jeans, many thrift shops have entire sections of various sizes. This is a great place to look if you’ve been having a difficult time shopping for them, as they’ll already be worn in and fitted better. Keep your eyes peeled for anything that catches your eye – it might be worth the find.
The second kind of buyer is looking to resell goods. These people find well priced secondhand items and either resell them as is or renovate them and update the price. These shoppers should look for brand name clothing, especially with tags. These can resell for a significantly higher price than what you will purchase it for. Also, items like college textbooks, Pyrex dishes, records and record players, and silver items are great resold items as well. If you’re more into refurbishing furniture, look for good quality but worn-down pieces and revamp them to make it your own.
Regardless of what kind of thrift shopper you are, there are items that may not fall under these categories that will catch your eye. Look at them and see if they’re worth your time and money before purchasing. If you don’t think you’ll use the item, don’t purchase it. After all, the whole point of the thrift shop is to resell to people who will actually use the items.
How to Find the Best Deals
Finding a great deal at a thrift store can take some time. You have to learn the store you’re in, how they operate and see if they have items worth the price and time that you’re putting in. The first step to getting great deals at your favorite thrift store is by befriending the staff. If you’re friendly, they’ll be more likely to support you and help you find amazing deals. Also, they may be more lenient on the prices. With that, the second way to get a good deal is to always ask for a discount. Sometimes, thrifts overprice their goods, knowing that people won’t contest them. If you simply ask for a better price or deal, they may be willing to negotiate with you. When done in combination with befriending them, your odds are even higher.
Next, you should learn about the stores you frequently shop in. By this, it would be in your best interest to follow their social media pages, website, and in-house advertisements. Here, they may post when special deals or closeouts are happening. Another way to learn the store is to ask when their shipments and restocks take place. Visiting the store soon after that day of the week will allow you to get first grabs at the items. There’s nothing better than being the first to see all of the new items that have arrived.
The last step to finding a good deal at a secondhand store is learning if your favorite store has any discount days. For example, some shops designate certain days of the week to a percentage off sales and even bag sales. These could include anything up to 50 percent off, or a certain price for an entire bag of products. Visiting the store on these days can save you a lot of money and also allow you to stock up on everything you may need or want. To find out this information, don’t hesitate to ask the workers if they have a schedule of deal or discount days. Most thrifts do, so it’s likely that your favorite one does as well.
The best part about thrift stores is that you can find items you need at a great, affordable price. Getting even better deals are an added bonus on top, so be sure to keep your eyes out for any notifications of sales or discounts.
Can You Donate Your Unwanted Items to a Thrift Shop?
Thrift stores are based around donations. Thus, you should be able to donate any of your unwanted items to a thrift shop. Before hauling things over, call or visit the thrift store and ask them to be sure. Sometimes, they won’t accept certain items. For example, if the location is smaller, they may not permit larger furniture or pieces. Remember that before you bring anything to any store, ask the protocol first. Sometimes, they may only accept donations on particular days or at certain drop-boxes. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you lugged your items over to a thrift shop for no reason, so beware of when you bring your unwanted items to your secondhand store.
Thrift shops workaround donations, meaning if they had no items to sell, they would not function and run. Without your donations, there is no thrift business. Donating to a thrift store will benefit your community, environment, and even allow you to get a tax break. Ask for a receipt when you donate your goods so you can use this to get money back next year! As long as you itemize your deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, your donations can save you money. If items are under $250 and cannot be logically counted for, such as a bag of clothes, you don’t need a receipt.
Donating the items that are no longer of any use to you is useful for everyone involved. Lower the amount of landfill waste and give back to your community by providing them with well-priced goods.
Best Thrift Stores in New York City
Now that you’re familiar with everything you need to know about thrift stores, it’s time to check some out. There are plenty of options for great thrift stores in New York City. The key is to keep an open mind and wide eyes. Below are some of the best secondhand stores in the city. These all have great reviews, products, and prices. With these options, you’ll always find great treasures.
84 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10003
AuH20 is one of the most modern thrift stores you’ll find in New York City. Owned by a woman named Kate Goldwater, she used her last name to make a creative chemistry play-on-words for her business name. The symbol Au means gold, while H20 means water. This shop is known as a thriftique. This means the clothing here is beautiful and antique at an affordable price. There are racks of $5 and $10 clothing showing that even those on a tight budget can shop a stunning collection of pieces.
This secondhand store specifically handpicks donated items and screens them for wear and tear before putting them out on the floor. If you want to take a look at some of the items they offer, look at their social media Instagram page here. The best part about it is you can even purchase the items they post directly on this site. They ask that you dictate “ship” or “pickup” and respond the price to send to them via PayPal or Venmo. Shopping at a clothing-based thrift store was never easier!
AuH20 is open every day from 12 pm to 8 pm. Visit their website here.
No Relation Vintage
204 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10009 (between 12th and 13th Street in East Village)
With great prices and amazing finds, you won’t find another place like No Relation Vintage. All items are decently priced, especially for New York City. When you step foot into this thrift, finding what you need should be easy, as everything is located in different “departments” depending on the type of item. For example, there’s an entire spot for jeans, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and whatever else you can think of.
Moderately priced, all t-shirts range between $6 and $15. The graphic tees tend to run cheaper than non-printed items. If you do some digging, you’re likely to leave with a bag full of clothes for under $50. If you’re looking for higher-end items, there’s also a section for that. With fancy suits and furs up to $200+, there’s something for everyone here. The prices you can’t beat, along with a variety of vintage and brand-name goods, will keep you coming back to No Relation Vintage for years to come.
No Relation Vintage is open from 12 pm every day to 8 pm on Mondays through Thursdays, as well as Sundays. On Fridays and Saturdays, they’re open until 9 pm. Check out their yelp reviews and photos here.
118 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11237
With nearly a 5-star rating, Urban Jungle is full of some of the best-hidden treasures in Brooklyn. It’s a low-key store, meaning it flies well under the radar. These more underrated secondhand stores are where you can pile up on the goodies. When a thrift store is lesser-known, it gives you more opportunities to find the hidden gems. Everything in Urban Jungle is organized by type, but the sizes are mishmashed, so you have to do some digging to find what’s best for you.
Nearly all items here are affordable. You can find stylish pants, shirts, and jackets for just $6. Some of the other items range up to $25 depending on name brand, quality, and how long it’s been in the store. Customer service at Urban Jungle is exceptional. One of the best things about this secondhand store is they accept credit card. This way, if you don’t have the cash, you can easily pay for something you really want with a card. Urban Jungle is full of high quality and affordable options, so don’t shy away from this location.
Urban Jungle is open every day from 12 pm to 7:45 pm. They don’t have a website, as they’re a smaller known company.
Housing Works Thrift Shop
For a list of all locations, click here.
Housing Works Thrift Shop is one of the best secondhand store chains in New York City. As a non-profit working to fight HIV/AIDS and homelessness, you know when you purchase something from here, your money will go to a good cause. With the funds they have raised since their start in 1990, they have provided housing, legal assistance, job training, and healthcare services to those in the community. Housing Works hosts events on top of their thrift outreach to maximize their profits.
Not only can you visit the abundance of Housing Works thrift shops, but you can now purchase items online here. From artwork to clothing and furniture, anybody who steps foot in a secondhand store or lays an eye on their website can find something to use for their home. If you want to lend a hand, they accept donations of products. Also, Housing Works recruit volunteers for services like working in their many thrift stores and participating in events. You can make a difference in the lives of your community members by shopping with Housing Works or helping them throughout their services!
Housing Works locations are typically open between 11 am and 7 pm every day. Be sure to double-check the time schedule with your particular location, though, as they can vary slightly from place to place.
Unique Boutique Third Avenue
1674 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10128 – Yorkville, Upper East Side
This secondhand store is a hole in the wall find in New York City. Sandwiched between larger stores, if you didn’t know that Unique Boutique was there, you might miss it. Though small and inconspicuous, the items here are of high quality and inexpensive. On certain days, you’ll see 50 percent off discount sign hanging from the ceilings. These will highlight a specific color tag to search for and indicates an additional 50 percent off on the tag price.
One downfall of this secondhand shop is its organization or lack thereof. This means that to find the great items, you have to dig. This adds to the genuine experience of visiting a thrift store, though. Rather than viewing the disorganized store as inconvenient, see it as a way to find buried treasure. If jumbled stores give you anxiety, they have a website where you can purchase some popular thrift items. Check out the website here. Keep in mind the website is slightly outdated, and they only have a few options at a time listed. Thus, it’s better to visit the actual store.
Unique Boutique Third Avenue’s hours vary on different days. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the store is open from 10 am to 8:30 pm. On Wednesdays, they close a half-hour early at 8 pm. Sunday’s hours are from 11 am to 7:30 pm.
L Train Vintage
1377 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11221
L Train Vintage is the main brand name of a chain of similar thrift stores in New York City. They have been around since 1999 and include other smaller shops previously listed, including Urban Jungle and No Relation Vintage. This family-run business has people traveling across state lines to find great vintage items to resell to the New York City community at low costs. In addition to this, shipments arrive monthly. Be sure to check in with each individual location for their exact monthly shipment date.
Brooklyn’s location of L Train Vintage is just one of many they have in NYC. It is often regarded as one of the best, though. With a combination of outdoor gear, clothing from the 70’s and beyond, and a variety of other unique pieces, there’s something for everyone here. The best part of this location is that it’s two stories. This means that there’s double the clothing than in a traditional one-8floor thrift store. For a wide selection of pieces, L Train Vintage is a top New York City thrift.
L Train Vintage at the Dekalb Avenue location is open from 12 pm to 8 pm every day except for Sunday when they’re closed. Keep in mind, though; they tend to close their doors early around 7:45. Be sure to get there well before closing time!
The Worthy Pause Thrift and Gift Shop
40-80 Corporal Kennedy St, Bayside, NY 11361
One of the best secondhand store locations in New York City is located in Queens. The Worthy Pause Thrift and Gift Shop, or The Worthy Pause, in short, has nearly a 5-star review on all review pages. Since 1979, the entire store is run by volunteers, so you’re sure to encounter excellent customer service. Staff is there because they want to be, not because they have to be. It’s relatively small as well, so be sure to sift through each corner you can to find the best deals. You can preview their merchandise here.
The items here are priced well and won’t break your bank account. All of the proceeds go to animal rescuers or animal medical bills. This means that spending your money here will always go to a great cause. They even have a store cat that roams around all day! The Worthy Pause accepts donations, too. To read more about their purpose, check out their website. To make donations their website has a list of accepted items – they also appreciate monetary donations.
The Worthy Pause Thrift and Gift Shop is open from Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 pm to 5:30 pm. On Saturdays and Sundays, the shop opens at 12 pm and closes at 5 pm and 4 pm, respectively. This location is closed on Mondays.
Nothing New Thrift Shop Warehouse
4916 Arthur Kill Road, Staten Island, NY 10309
Staten Island is often overlooked when discussing places in New York City. Since it is a borough, though, it must be included. Nothing New Thrift Shop Warehouse is a large secondhand store in Staten Island. From jewelry to clothing to furniture, this monstrous 1,100 square-foot store has everything you need to furnish a new home or wardrobe. The owner and shop workers are friendly and excited to start conversations with the customers.
This is a two-story secondhand store, but not in the way you’d expect. The upstairs floor has all of the shopping materials you may want to find. Spend your time digging through clothes and furniture. People have scored cheap vintage pieces and knickknacks of all kinds. Downstairs, though, there is something unlike any thrift on this list. Called the “sanctuary,” after you finish; shopping, you can sit down and enjoy a cute café and library. It’s in the form of a book café where people can go to enjoy a coffee while reading or purchasing various books and magazines from different times. This unique secondhand store draws people from all places in New York City.
Nothing New Thrift Shop Warehouse is open from Monday to Saturday between the hours of 10 am and 7 pm. On Sundays, they open at 1 pm and close at 5 pm.
Regardless if you’re trying to purchase or donate to a thrift store, your actions are supporting your community. There are tons of different places in New York City where you can participate. Be sure to check in with your local thrift to identify whether they donate or contribute to society in any way, or if they’re a for-profit company.
Thrift or secondhand stores give you a unique style full of recycled clothing and furniture. Just by shopping at a thrift shop first, you’re helping yourself and your environment. Always keep your eyes open for great deals, and you’ll never regret visiting a thrift shop as your first stop in a shopping trip.