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Out & About / Ventura County | shoptalk

Treasures and Trifles

Thrift stores offer a variety of items at bargain prices and often for a good cause.

March 11, 2000|NANCY KINSEY NEEDHAM | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Gently worn. Previously owned. Or--our favorite--clothes with experience.

Whatever the description of the merchandise, we are talking thrift stores.

For anyone who isn't squeamish about wearing clothes that come from someone else's closet, secondhand stores are chock full of bargains.

Many thrift shops offer hats, shoes, pants, socks, plates, forks, candlesticks and even underwear for less than $1. And furniture, if buyers overlook nicks or are capable of refinishing, is priced low enough to economically store all those items.

Knowing that most profits go to charity adds another incentive to shopping at the cut-rate stores, full of just about anything a person can--and most likely did--use.

Fortunately, the days of the large bins of jumbled merchandise are gone, along with the large racks of clothes that offer no clue about size. At the stores we visited, items are organized and displayed according to season, with baskets, plush bunnies and flowered dresses near the front door in preparation for Easter.

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At the Ventura County Humane Society Thrift Store in Ventura, volunteer Peggy George explained the secret to its success.

"Everyone is very good to us and gives us the best donations, because they love animals and want to help them," George said.

Before they are put on racks, clothes are laundered in the store's back room. Anything that can be bleached is bleached, and volunteers sometimes bring baskets of donations home to clean in their own machines to help keep everything stocked and ready, she said.

"That's one way we avoid that thrift store smell," George said.

The store recently was offering a Lowry organ for $59.95. Kitchen gadgets, hardcover books and bud vases cost 50 cents each. A good selection of board games, ties and gently pre-loved plush bunnies were marked about $1 each.

The Humane Society store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and accepts Visa and MasterCard.

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Around the corner on Oak Street sits the Goodwill Thrift Store. There, a variety of coffee mugs cost three for 99 cents, an ashtray from Reno cost 39 cents and bags of small plastic toys cost 99 cents.

There were lots of 39-cent stuffed animals, a sport coat for $3.99 and Easter baskets starting at 39 cents. House dresses were on the racks beside formal dresses fancy enough for a prom queen, and most sold for less than $10.

Goodwill is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. It accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

The Assn. for Retarded Citizens has stores in Ventura and Oxnard. At the Oxnard store, which is big enough to rival discount department stores selling new merchandise, there are four check stands with a constant stream of customers. The secondhand clothes have been sorted and displayed on racks according to size, gender and type of item. Pop music plays over the store's speaker system.

Rows of shoes and boots, shelves of appliances and even lawn mowers have all been cleaned, sorted and reasonably priced. Caps start at 95 cents, socks at 65 cents and board games at $1.95. Bikes, roller skates, boots and microwave ovens are available, as is an owl salt and pepper shaker set for $1.95. Porcelain dolls are locked in a glass display case. One large, pretty one cost $34.95. A chain saw cost $39.95.

The Oxnard store is open daily and the Ventura store Monday through Saturday, both from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Neither takes credit cards.

Next door to the Oxnard ARC store is the Rescue Mission Super Thrift Store, where customers can listen to country music as they wheel their shopping carts up and down the aisles of the warehouse-type store that has new items, along with the old.

On a recent visit, items ranged from a Kroger baby grand piano for $999.99 to brand-new dollar-store type gadgets and soap. A 12-piece glass punch bowl with cups cost $8.99. A heavily sequined wedding dress was $69.

The Mission store is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and accepts Visa and MasterCard.

In Newbury Park and Simi Valley, the Salvation Army has large thrift stores with ever-changing inventory that is determined entirely by donations: Sometimes there is gold and silver. Other times, rusty pots and pans.

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At the National Charity Leagues' Fibber McGee's Closet in Thousand Oaks, shoppers will find goods donated by National Charity League members, and others in the community. Items are cleaned up and inspected by volunteers before being displayed. "We have quite a good selection and our members donate high-quality items and sometimes new items," volunteer Denise Davis said.

McGee's is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Volunteers at Senior Concerns Boutique in Thousand Oaks are also proud of the quality of the items they sell. Some were purchased new from a Hallmark store that went out of business.

Currently, the store offers new wigs for $15 each, a size 14 brown wool coat for $40 and a mink collar for $10. There were also a nice display of St. Patrick's Day items and a section of new clothes.

Unlike most of its competitors, Senior Concerns has a dressing room, so customers can try on clothes before they purchase them.

Nancy Needham writes a weekly consumer column. She can be reached at nancy.needham@reporters.net.

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