My Not-So-Secret Shopping Place

My life changed the day I discovered the Goodwill Outlet Center.  I’m not exaggerating.  Where else can you prowl through piles and piles of textiles and clothes, and then pay $1.10 a pound for your finds?

In case you don’t have one of these paradises in your area, let me explain.  The sorters go through all the donations and put anything they think will not sell on the regular Goodwill floor into the giant blue bins.  I suspect that 95% of the vintage donated ends up in the bins, along with all the fabrics and patterns.  There are also bins of “hard goods” which can be anything from vintage records to every VHS movie ever released.

The book bins are amazing.  Even though the regular store has a large book section, there are always at least four bins of books and magazines.  I look for sewing books and those on history and fashion.

There is a bit of a trick shopping here.  First, you do have to be willing to dig through the piles.  It is hard work.  And there is a bit of an ick factor, which is solved by the wearing of rubber gloves.  It helps to be methodical, sorting through one bin at a time.

I’ve learned that if I pull out one piece of vintage from a bin, there are probably others.  I think that sometimes the workers empty entire bags of donations into the bins if they feel that all the stuff from the donor is junk.   They must get a lot of donations where a house is being cleared due to an older person having to leave their home, because if a bin has vintage tablecloths and other linens, there are usually dozens.

Yesterday there were piles and piles of fabrics, ranging from the 1940s through the 1980s.  I feel pretty confident saying that a sewer’s stash was donated.  There was a lot of interest in it, and I got some very nice pieces, including a Christmas border print, and a nautical novelty print from the 1950s.

There were also dozens of these fabric circles, which were most likely cut out to make a yo-yo quilt.  Can you believe that dachshund print?

I could not capture the correct colors with my phone camera, but this is a great late 1960s or early 70s cotton duck.

There was also quite a bit of vintage clothing, probably from the same estate.  The print above was on a nylon print skirt.

There were lots of vintage patterns, mainly for children.  Lots of times when there are big fabric lots like there were yesterday, there are also bags of zippers and trims.  Unfortunately, I either missed them or they were not donated.  One thing that is rare to find are button boxes.  I think there must be a lot of sentimental value placed on them.  I know I have my grandmother’s box of buttons and I cherish it.

My Goodwill Outlet also sells the merchandise from the regular stores that has been on the racks without selling.  I’ve heard that in some places the contents of the outlets is entirely store leftovers.I wonder what they do with all the good stuff?

30 Comments

Filed under Shopping

30 responses to “My Not-So-Secret Shopping Place

  1. Joyce Acosta

    We have an outlet close to here. However, now that Goodwill is selling on ebay most of the vintage here ends up online. The backroom staff is instructed among other things to pull anything with a metal zipper. They also looks for any IGLWU tags. I would love to come and shop at your outlet center.

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    • Well, that’s good for them, but it sure would take the fun out of shopping at the outlet! Not every visit is like yesterday’s. I go maybe a couple of time a month, and sometimes I fins some real treasures and sometimes I find nothing. But it’s always fun to think that the next bin holds the item of my dreams.

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  2. wowweee! What a score!
    We have a GW Outlet here too (a little more expensive at $1.29 / pound), but it’s a good 20-30 minute drive so I don’t get to go as often as I’d like.
    Ours does books for 25 cents/pound, 1/2 price on everything on Sundays, and if you have the time and patience to dig, it can be quite fun and rewarding.
    I wonder if those fabric circles were cut from vintage feed sacks?
    My favorite outlet find was the day I found 7-8 complete vintage feedsacks in one of those blue bins. But never have I found as much lovely vintage as what you just showed. I think I need to make a trip to that store! Any chance it’s in Asheville?

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    • Yes, it is in West Asheville. Let me know if you plan to make the trip and I’ll send you the directions.

      Some of the circles appear to be feedsacking, but others are percale. Great stuff!

      I’ve been to the outlet in Greenville, but the time I went I was in a hurry and really didn’t find anything.

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      • oh thank you! Is it the one on Patton Ave? I googled Asheville GW outlet, and it pulled up that one, although on the next page, it only described it as the GW training center. I know the one here in Greenville has a training center in the same building.
        Those fabrics are great stuff! I still can’t get over those cute prints. And how can you not smile when you look at bird pillow?
        The Greenville store, like any thrift I guess, is really hit or miss. I just try to make sure I’m feeling lucky before I go…somehow subconsciously I think that helps.
        But never (not yet anyway) have I scored a stash like yours…mercy!!
        (well not at the GW outlet at least…I did however go to an estate sale last week that was vintage dress heaven, so I certainly can’t complain).

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  3. pondering a holiday to the US just to visit those places… 😉

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  4. Oh wow. I’m pretty sure this place would change my life too. We definitely don’t have anything like that here in Australia.

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  5. We have one right outside the city, but we’ve never had the luck that you did this trip! Ours has a lot of larger items that don’t sell well, like keyboards and other larger instruments. The Bobbie Brooks skirt looks very cute!

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  6. LB

    Why would anyone get rid of The Southern Living Cookbook. Philistines.

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  7. hmmm I wonder if the one in Fort Worth is worth the drive. I didn’t know about it until I did a search just now – looks like it costs $1.39 a pound but still an amazing deal if they don’t bother to sort out the good stuff!

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  8. We have one here in Los Angeles, the customers behave like rabid dogs: when a new bin is due to leave the back room, the staff closes off the area, moves the full bins in, then they open it up and everyone charges the bins–it’s scarier than Halloween!
    Dealers also stake out the bins at the huge store in Tacoma, Wash. This means that no vintage apparel slips by them, but fortunately they don’t read, so whew, lots of neat old books!

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    • That is scary! I usually don’t go in the mornings because that is when the vintage dealers are there. I just don’t like competing with them. The bins are constantly switched out anyway.

      The books are often the best things to be found. I bought a wonderful little sewing book from 1931 recently. It might have cost me 50 cents.

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  9. JanetP

    We have a slightly different system here in Australia where the “op shops” (short for opportunity shops) sell items of clothing on racks like a normal store. The charities that run them cottoned on to vintage and labels a while ago and some now have their own “vintage” shops where they charge a premium. You can still get some great finds in the normal op shops, but costs are per item of clothing. Last time I went I found five things, but the couple of times before that I walked out with nothing. I love op shopping and have been doing it for years – ever since I was a teenager. My wardrobe is a mix of $4 finds and hundreds of dollars pieces that I hang onto for years!

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  10. There is a similar outlet in Brussels where people leave whatever they have no use for anymore (mainly clothes and furniture but also appliances, books, anything really)… The stuff is sorted according to quality, electric appliances and furniture are repaired then sold for close to nothing. I have seen some fantastic cupboards, cabinets and dinner tables I wished I had space for in my apartment!
    But there are also smaller shops scattered around Brussels, where they sell the better pieces (cloths and accessories) at slightly higher prices. It’s a non-profit organization, most of the people working at the main outlet are volunteers and proceeds go to good causes like accommodation for the homeless. It’s called ”Les Petits Riens/Spullenhulp”.

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  11. There is one of these near my sister-in-law’s house in Portland, OR. I’ve gone a few times and always found something, although I must admit to being intimidated by the sheer quantity of stuff. However, if I go again I will follow your tips–be meticulous and wear rubber gloves. A great idea!

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  12. I love that dachshund print! My trip to Munich gave me a dachshund obsession.

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  13. Yes, the circles look like feedsack. I love that print with the underwear pegged up on the line!

    I think you’re right about the sentimental attachment of button boxes; they can travel down a family for generations.

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  14. I looked online yesterday, and there is one in Santa Ana, not too far from where I live. I’m going to get out my rubber gloves and make a trip there soon!

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  15. I think I need a trip to the states! x

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  16. I love all of the fabrics you’ve shown. I rarely see fabric or patterns at my Goodwill, but there is a Goodwill outlet in Boston that I’ve never been to, so maybe that’s where they go. Now, thanks to this post, I will definitely check it out. As it is, I’m frequenting the closest Goodwill every day as Oct. is when they put out the ‘Halloween’ fare that they’ve been saving all year, i.e., true vintage. I’ve found some amazing stuff that past few Octobers.
    We have a rag factory here called Dollar A Pound I used to go every week back in the 90s but haven’t been in ages. That was a crazy scene! I blogged about it last year (click on ‘Dollar a pound’ in my tag cloud).

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