Bargain master

Get the lowdown on low prices from a Chico thrift-store guru

Marisol Salgado shops her heart out at Thrifty Bargain.

Marisol Salgado shops her heart out at Thrifty Bargain.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Thrift-store shopping requires much more than having an eye for treasures. A lack of patience is the No. 1 reason most people do not bother searching through piles of junk to get to the good stuff. By good stuff, I mean scoring a vintage Louis Vuitton Speedy handbag for $5—my best find to date. There was also the time I found a fabulous Oscar de la Renta scarf for $2.

My fab-find stories are endless, but the thrill is not always about high-end goods. Essential items like jeans, belts, and even pots and pans are in abundance at thrift stores and they are waiting to find a good home. I have been working the Chico thrift-store circuit for many years, and I have learned what you can and cannot get away with when purchasing used items.

Set personal boundaries for the types of items you are willing to wear or use. Some thrift-store enthusiasts draw the line at undergarments and shoes, while others pretty much go for anything. Depending on your level of germ paranoia, there are plenty of methods available when it comes to sanitizing thrift-store clothing. However, there are red flags to watch for.

If there is a stain, try to determine if you can remove it. Sometimes the stain is questionable for more reasons than whether it will come out in the wash. When in doubt, and not even Shout can help, don’t touch it and don’t buy it.

If you are extremely high on the paranoia continuum, I suggest boiling any items of clothing you purchase and don’t buy shoes—you will never get over the germ factor. A couple of years ago I found a pair of Frye boots at a thrift shop, regularly $200, for only $10. I sprayed an entire can of Lysol in each boot and proudly sported them until my sister took the boots and made a run for it.

If you’ve ever been bowling and can put those shoes on without losing sleep, you can definitely handle thrift-store shoes.

Let’s not forget that fitting rooms exist at most department stores. This means someone most likely has tried on the new article of clothing you purchased. Don’t let a couple of measly germs stand between you and a pair of classic, broken-in Levi’s or just-beat-up-enough boots. Use some bleach, Lysol, or detergent, and get over it!

Once you have established your limits for thrift-store items, it’s time to stuff those limits in your back pocket and keep an open mind. I once said I would never buy undergarments from a thrift store. Then I found a cool slip that I boiled, dyed, altered and turned into a marvelous dress. Never say never.

There are standard items you will usually find at most thrift stores. These items include furniture, clothing, shoes, belts, jewelry, handbags, luggage, house wares, records and books.

My coolest thrift-store finds come from The Salvation Army on Broadway, where the price is always right. From skirts to jeans, the store is well-organized, clean and the staff is always friendly. The selection of jeans, handbags, and belts is great, and the knickknacks and jewelry aren’t bad either. Plus, any price tag with a green slash through it means the item is half price. The same goes for The Salvation Army on East Avenue, although I don’t find the selection there to be as fulfilling as the one at its sister store.

If you’re looking for specials, Thrifty Bargain on The Esplanade is the place to go. If there is a holiday coming up it is likely the roomy store will have a sale on its entire stock. Depending on the day of the week or the color of the price tag, something is always on sale at Thrifty Bargain. And unlike most thrift stores in Chico, it has two fitting rooms, so you can buy clothing with confidence. With the largest and most organized selection of clothing, this store makes thrift-store shopping easier than most.

Thrifty Bargain

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

At a few thrift stores in Chico you can shop for a cause. The Shop is the American Cancer Society’s thrift store. All of the proceeds from the ARC Thrift Store go directly to The ARC of Butte County, which serves the disabled. The Discovery Shoppe supports numerous local charities such as The Boys & Girls Club, the Butte County Library bookmobile, and Catalyst. Scoring a great deal is just one reason you will leave these shops feeling good.

As previously mentioned, patience is very important when thrift-store shopping. While most thrift stores’ clothing racks are well-organized and even color coordinated, The Thrift Queen is more like an explosion of everything vintage. Walking into the small shop on Nord Avenue can be overwhelming if you’re not willing to spend a significant amount of time sorting through piles and piles of clothing. Some items are a bit pricey, but they’re usually worth it. This is not a 15-minute stop; be prepared to spend some time there—you might even want to pack a snack. Stop by with a friend and cut the sorting time in half.


Photo By Marisol Salgado

Then there are the “upscale” counterparts of The Salvation Army and ARC Thrift Store. The ARC Trading Company is the counterpart to the ARC Thrift Store, while Elite Repeat is the Salvation Army’s upscale counterpart. When sorting through donations, staff members separate items into two groups. Items that seem ritzy, antique-like, and just plain expensive are sent to the upscale stores. Expect to pay considerably more for items located at these thrift stores—most are antiques.

No matter where you shop, remember that you can clean, dye, disinfect or alter many items. The extra effort balances the cheap price. In the end, thrift-store purchases are great finds and are even better when they are on sale.

Where to treasure hunt on a budget


Photo By Marisol Salgado

The Salvation Army
1054 Broadway
1358 East Ave.
Monday - Saturday (9-5)
Sunday - closed

The Salvation Army–—Elite Repeat
700 Broadway
Monday - Saturday (9-5)

The Thrift Queen
641 Nord Ave
Monday - Wednesday (11:30-6:30)
Thursday - Saturday (11:30-7)
Sunday - closed

ARC Thrift Store
2020 Park Ave
Monday - Saturday (10-6)
Sunday (11-5)

ARC Trading Co.
1900 Park Avenue
Wednesday - Sunday (11-5)

Thrifty Bargain
2432 Esplanade
Monday - Saturday (9-8)
Sunday (10-6)

The Shop
752 Mangrove Ave
Monday - Friday (10-6)
Saturday (10-5)
Sunday (noon-5)

The Discovery Shoppe
315 Flume
Monday-Saturday (10-4)

The Shop

Photo By Marisol Salgado