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Postcards from the Windy City - Three is for Thrifting


By Abby Stocker

Fri, Jul 12th, 2013
Posted in All Columnists

Dear Readers,

I don’t mean any slight on Minnesota nice in what I am about to say. I will be the first to tell you that I get along just fine with a society of “courteous, reserved, and mild-mannered” people (in the words of Wikipedia). I love being in a place where the neighbors recognize your car and wave when they see you approaching on the road. But I’ve also found Chicago, or at least the suburbs, to be quite friendly as well.

Take, for instance, the librarian who oh-so-sweetly informed me that there was no possible way she could give me a library card, even though my host mom is a loyal library patron, because I don’t technically “live” in Batavia. Or the welcoming (and forgiving!) Scottish country dancers I mentioned in my postcard two weeks ago, or a lady at the church I visited last Sunday whose warm smile and intent handshake made me feel that, for two seconds, greeting the visitor (me) was her only priority.

So this week’s postcard is brought to you by the number three. Not because I drove 300 miles to visit home for the Fourth of July, not because I’ve gotten stuck behind three trains while commuting this week, but because three is the number of Chicagoland thrift shops I visited in the past week, and all of them were strikingly friendly.

Thrift shop 1: Goodwill, near my internship. Atmosphere: upbeat pop music, busy without being crowded. Their book selection is quite organized and tidy. Unlike the Rochester Goodwill, you are required to ask an employee to let you into a dressing room to try on clothing. However, the employees are happy to help; when I walked past, the young man was joking that it would cost a woman $5 to get in, and they were laughing. I was reminded of Goodwill’s service-oriented mission by the checkout clerk, and urged to come again. Winner of a Readers’ Choice Award from a local newspaper.

Thrift shop 2: Goodwill, Batavia. Like the other Goodwill nearby, the prices seemed low—books were a mere $1.79 for a hardcover, and average clothing price ran at or under $4.99—and the selection seemed particularly good at this location. Atmosphere: On the day I visited, the store was teeming with people, but since the store was clean and well-lit, the buzz of people was pleasant. I was invited to apply for Club Goodwill, which I haven’t heard of in Minnesota. A thrift store shopping benefits program? I can live with advance notice of sales and free coupons. Sadly, it’s a program limited to Wisconsin and Illinois.

Thrift shop 3: Too Good To Toss, Wheaton. Atmosphere: Don’t be put off by this store’s nondescript sign reading “RESALE” or its tucked-away location at the end of a strip mall. This consignment store has class. The items at Too Good To Toss were slightly quirkier and more uniquely displayed than at Goodwill—try tiny closet-sized rooms full of electronics or children’s toys and books for display, and items like baby buggies or a full selection of cookbooks. I considered buying “The Joy of Stress” by Peter G. Hanson, M.D., published in 1985. But be aware: the prices at TGTT run a little higher than Goodwill. The boutique-store feel is accompanied by prices as high as $8 for a book or $22 for shoes. But they, too, hold regular sales, and the staff makes you feel like a regular from the first, casually pointing out where to find different items and personally ensuring you know where the sales are without making you feel watched while browsing.

Next to visit: Uncle Mikey’s What-Not-Shoppe, West Chicago. Uncle Mikey’s appears to be more of an antique store than anything, and he appears to have a thriving eBay franchise. He, sadly, wasn’t in when I was by. Fun window shopping for ceramics and collectibles, in any case.

This week, three is for thrifting. Terribly, terrifically tickled.

See you next week!

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