Thrift Store Shopping in Peoria

Church Mouse.JPG

by Steven Streight

Have you discovered the joys of thrift store shopping? Some people think it's a lot more fun to visit a thrift store, than to go to a regular store. Peoria has some good thrift stores to periodically check out.

If you only like brand new stuff at regular store prices, thrift stores are not for you. Thrift stores are for people who like nostaglia, low prices, and gently used items. Now, for some things, you really need them to be brand new, like underwear and some kitchen items. But some things are just as good, if not better, when they're old, out of print, rare, or so out of fashion they're hip again.

I collect old books on art, philosophy, Christianity, music, gardening, herbs, history, ecology, and other topics. I love finding possibly valuable first editions of older books. I also like to find out of print books that are no longer available in bookstores, online, or special order. It's exciting to find old editions of classic works of fiction and poetry, too. Sometimes they have beautiful, artistic covers and dust jackets with a retro hipness. Old vinyl record album covers are also interesting a lot of times, with art that is striking, avant-garde, or funny. I always prefer old books that are not marked up, underlined, or yellow highlighted, even though that's how I treat most of my new books when I'm studying them and want importantn information to be easily and quickly refindable.

Many times, I have found a really great book, and when I look it up online, I find that it's unavailable for purchase on Amazon, or eBay, or other online stores. This makes the book more precious to me. Since I spend a lot of time on the computer, the last thing I want to do is read a book on an eReader. I prefer the physical, paper books. I love how I can carry one or two with me, without needing batteries, since they are hand-powered and always on.

My wife finds wood objects to refurbish, repaint, and repurpose. Sometimes we find items that appear to never have been used, even items that are sealed in their original packaging. I'm looking for a VHS tape or DVD of the comedy film "Stewart Saves His Family", starring Al Franken as Stewart Smalley, the self-help junkie and positive affirmations freak. This movie is one of the funniest I've ever seen, but the movie studio, actors, and others involved with it are trying to distance themselves from it and bury it in oblivion. I guess because it's poking fun at 12 step programs and sensitivity training, with a gay protagonist who is sort of a loser, but ends up "saving his family" which is dysfunctional. Anyway, I used to own a copy of this movie, but lost it, and now am seeking to find another copy. I hope to find it in a thrift store.

I've purchased clothing items, from sport coats to dress shirts, that looked like they were never worn by the original owner. Recently, I found an LL Bean thinsulate white winter coat, for just $6.00 at the Church Mouse. My wife had warned me that I need to wear white clothing at night, so motorists can see me crossing a street, or walking down a street with no sidewalks. I was prepared to spend upwards of $120 on a new coat, but found this one for 1/10 of the expected cost. I doubt it was ever worn, so it may have been a gift that someone didn't care for, and therefore donated to the Lutheran Womens League (who run the Church Mouse).

To effectively shop at a thrift store, ironically, you must be very astute about quality. You must be able to tell if an item is cheap junk or well constructed. Brand names can be a clue. "Made in China" means avoid it. Look for stains, rips, holes, broken zippers, and missing buttons on clothing. Check vinyl records for scratches, scrapes, and other defects. Carefully inspect all items. I've seen stains on ties and wondered why the thrift store didn't just toss them into the garbage. Who in their right mind would buy a soiled tie? Flip through books to ensure there are no pages ripped out or excessive markings throughout. Check items for cracks, missing pieces, unrepairable damage, and other signs that something was "donated" to charity just to get rid of it, instead of passing a good item on to others to enjoy. If you're not sure about an item, ask a store employee. Learn how to distinguish fake from real, as in pearls, gold, silk, etc. Toys for little children who are still chewing on everything should be bought new and not at thrift stores, to avoid germs.

With these tips in mind, you should be a successful thrift store shopper. May you find gems among the junk!

In Peoria, Illinois, you'll find quite a few thrift stores: the Church Mouse, Goodwill, Southside Mission Mart, God's Mission Thrift Store, Salvation Army, and Peoria Rescue Mission Thrift Store. Sometimes you'll discover a new or unfamiliar one as you drive around town.