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Secondhand Stores, First-Rate Finds

Shoppers don’t have to pay full price for designer clothes

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EvaB ally.jpg

Eva B in Jamaica Plain. Photos by Amy Laskowski

With sky-high gas prices and talk of a recession, even the most fashion-savvy shoppers might think twice about those $150 jeans. Fortunately, Boston has an array of eclectic secondhand stores where shoppers can buy brand-name, vintage, or designer clothes and accessories relatively cheaply.

Getting to know secondhand shops has another benefit. You may be able to sell clothing you no longer wear to a consignment shop. Stores usually give the owner less than half of the item’s selling price. For instance, if a pair of Paper, Denim and Cloth jeans sells in a store for $40, the consigner may make only $15. It might be better to get a store credit or discount instead of cash. Consult the individual shop for its guidelines.

The Alter Eco
244 Brighton Ave., Allston
This small consignment boutique sells a mix of new and vintage items. It carries brands such as Laundry, H&M, and Diesel. It’s organized and clean, and the staff can help you pick out a great outfit. Check out the well-dressed mannequins in the window for ideas.

Boomerangs
716 Centre St., Jamaica Plain
Pause for a moment to admire the window displays before entering the store. On a recent day, the mannequins were dressed for a Fourth of July barbecue, one with a sign reading “Live humans inside.” The store accepts donations from all over Boston and receives new items from Brooks Brothers, Urban Outfitters, and Newbury Comics. In addition to clothes, the store sells LPs, CDs, DVDs, furniture, jewelry (a Tiffany’s ring for $50), books, and more. All proceeds go to the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts.

The Closet
175 Newbury St., Boston
Shoppers don’t necessarily associate Newbury Street with bargains. But The Closet offers good deals for those seeking upscale labels. The small space sells women’s and men’s clothes, shoes, and high-end bags. Items that have been on the floor for a month are discounted 25 percent, while items that have been out for two months are half off. The store doesn’t carry vintage items or anything older than two years.

Encore Exchange
318 Harvard St., Brookline
Tucked away in the Arcade Building in Coolidge Corner, the store features Louis Vuitton bags, faux pearls, animal brooches, and clothes. Note: If you plan to go, call 617-566-4544 to make sure the store is open.

Eva B
603 Centre St., Jamaica Plain
This consignment store aims for the upscale shopper who knows fashion, carrying brands like Chloé and Dolce & Gabbana. Many items are new, because the owner often has consignments from boutiques. In addition to clothes, the store sells unique bags and handmade African jewelry. There are always sales; look for a 50-percent-off sale, with the exception of bags and jewelry, through the end of July.

Garment District
200 Broadway, Cambridge
Some shoppers think of the Garment District as the place to come in search of a Halloween costume, but bargain-hunters can find deals year-round. The store, near the MIT campus, sells everything from vintage pieces to pedal pushers to maxi dresses and bell bottoms. Twice a year the store shuts down to replace the entire inventory, a big job considering there are more than 40,000 pieces of vintage and contemporary clothing. Head to the bottom floor to stuff your basket and then pay only $1.50 per pound. Click here for the online store.

The Garment District is committed to charity, buying clothing from many charitable organizations. Clothing that doesn’t sell is donated to developing countries.

Goodwill
965 Commonwealth Ave., Boston
Goodwill organizes its clothes by type (shirts, pants, dresses) and then by color. On a recent day, men’s and women’s jeans were priced at $6.99, a Lacoste polo was selling for $4.99, and many other bargains were tucked away between the racks. The back of the store has electronics, books, and housewares. Great find: a signed, framed photo of ’80s heartthrob Kirk Cameron for a mere 99 cents.

Karma Consignment Boutique
26 Prince St., Boston
Twin sisters Judy and Joy Catuogno run Karma Consignment Boutique, an upscale shop in the North End. The store works with boutiques to find secondhand items from Chanel, Gucci, and Dior and also features new designers. The sisters recently started selling new lingerie and bathing suits by brands such as Dreamgirl, Leg Avenue, and Skinny Dip. Best of all, BU students get a 20 percent discount with a student ID.

Keezer’s
140 River St., Cambridge
Men’s clothing seems underrepresented in the consignment category, but Keezer’s fills this niche nicely by selling everything a guy needs to look dapper. The shop bills itself as the oldest secondhand store in the country, selling fine suits, tuxes, and formal wear for men. Some items are straight from the manufacturer, so don’t be surprised to find tags still attached. Look for Polo bow ties for $12 and Vineyard Vines pants for $12.50.

The store got its start buying and selling suits to Harvard men, explains owner Len Goldstein, and its most famous customer was JFK, who he says would send his butler to sell his old suits.

Poor Little Rich Girl
255 Elm St., Somerville
Located in Davis Square, Poor Little Rich Girl has funky, retro pieces at reasonable prices. Frequent finds include Tahari, Betsey Johnson, and Anthropologie. The large, carefully chosen selection means shoppers won’t feel overwhelmed. Everything is well organized, which can’t be said for all consignment stores. Great find: Cole Haan suede mules in near-perfect condition for a measly $32.

Second Time Around
176 and 219 Newbury St. and 99 Charles St., Boston
Atrium Mall, 300 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill
8 Eliot St., Cambridge
This is one of the best consignment stores, with various locations around New England. Don’t be surprised to find Seven jeans, with the tags still attached, for $72. There’s a wide selection of jeans, dresses, and shirts — shoppers can find all the basics here. The marking system is similar to the original Filene’s Basement: items on the floor the longest have the biggest discount. The larger of the Newbury Street stores, at 176, is spread out on two floors and includes a men’s section, a wide selection of dresses, and a discount area. Visit the Harvard Square location to find vintage items.

Urban Renewals
122 Brighton Ave., Allston
This shopping experience most closely resembles Goodwill or Salvation Army stores, so wear comfy shoes and be prepared to hunt. The vast space stretches over two store lots and has clothes, housewares, furniture, and electronics. College students can outfit an entire apartment here. Items are organized by type and then color. There are no dressing rooms and only cash is accepted. One more tip: Wednesday is senior citizen discount day, and the store is packed.

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

9 Comments

9 Comments on Secondhand Stores, First-Rate Finds

  • anonymous on 07.14.2008 at 9:04 pm

    great article…i like the closet the best! they have a neat blog too http://www.closetboston.com

  • Rachel Kleine - Necklaces for Men on 02.09.2009 at 12:30 pm

    Great guide, Amy. I’ve always bought from Second Time Around. Come to think of it, almost all of my stuff came from them. I so love shopping there for my wardrobe. It’s just contagious. LOL

    Rachel

  • CHoey on 02.21.2009 at 8:57 pm

    Davis Square Shop Opening

    Something wonderful is
    happening to Davis Square,
    Somerville on March 7th 2009..
    There will be a new store
    opening. La Chic Boutique!
    Specializing in but not limited
    too new and used:

    Costume Jewelry

    Sterling, Gold, Diamonds

    Purses

    Shoes

    High End Clothes

    Brick o Brack,

    Collectibles

    Check for updates
    235 Elm St.
    Somerville, MA 02145 (617)821-6229
    Davis Square, Davis T Stop On The Red Line

  • lv graffiti on 03.16.2009 at 9:44 am

    great article, it;s amazing, you must have spend much time to do some research. i the get this blog in my google reader. thanx.

  • Anonymous on 04.16.2009 at 10:25 pm

    Eva B - waste of good space!

    Eva B is nothing to write home about, not sure how it’s still in business. The owner is very rude.

  • Irene Savoia on 06.26.2009 at 4:39 am

    It is an environmental and economical way to deal with the secondhand.
    I used to buy the secondhand books.

  • Alice Radio on 06.30.2009 at 10:21 pm

    thanks for sharing. i’d like to try

  • coaching and mentoring on 09.22.2010 at 12:24 pm

    I could spend a day doing it.

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