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A Guide to Boston’s Secondhand Shops

Where to find used clothing and furniture

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During the summer months, we are revisiting some of our favorite BU Today stories from the past year. This week, we feature fashion, on and off campus.

Shopping for clothes, furniture, and housewares can be a challenge on a student budget. Fortunately, Boston area secondhand stores offer a wide range of goods, from tables and chairs to designer duds and accessories. And purchasing someone else’s castoffs is good for the environment as well as your wallet. Consider this: the average American throws out 82 pounds of clothing each year, adding 11 million tons to landfills.

Whether you’re hitting a thrift, consignment, resale, or vintage store, you’ll find clothes and furniture for relatively low prices. There are differences though: thrift stores sell donated items, resale stores pay sellers for items, and consignment shops accept items from owners, who get a percentage when it sells.

There is a thrill to unearthing a hidden gem at the bottom of a pile or at the back of a shelf and knowing that it’s worth at least double what you pay. So we’ve curated a list of secondhand stores worth checking out, from a vintage store specializing in retro video games to a consignment store where you can get designer clothes for low prices and support local charities. Have a favorite that we’ve failed to include? Add it in the Comment section below.

Close to Campus

Goodwill
965 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; 617-254-0112
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries was founded in Boston’s South End in 1895; today, stores supporting the nonprofit can be found throughout the world. The closest is in West Campus. Clothes are organized by type and color and most have a set price: jeans $7.49, T-shirts $1.99, and so on. There’s also a pricier boutique section of higher end brands and noteworthy vintage items. Boutique steals spotted on a recent day: a dusty pink cashmere J Crew cardigan ($15) and a brand-new Tek Gear sweatshirt ($10). A weekly tag sale offers special discounts, and college students get a 25 percent discount every Thursday.

Buffalo Exchange
180 Harvard Ave., Allston; 617-779-7901
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Buffalo Exchange occupies that magical space between a thrift store and a consignment shop. Items, both men’s and women’s clothing with a youthful and hip bent, average $15. We recently spotted a tan suede sherpa coat ($50) and a vintage beaded tank top ($5), one of many items being offered at 50 percent off. Those selling clothes can get 30 percent in cash or 50 percent for trade on the spot. Sign up for the store’s newsletter to find out about special deals, like student discount day. And bring a reusable bag: Buffalo Exchange donates money to local charities in lieu of providing bags.

Urban Renewals
122 Brighton Ave., Allston; 617-783-8387
Hours: Monday to Thursday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Urban Renewals is massive: one room has women’s clothing and children’s toys, another has men’s clothing, and a third is filled with furniture. Housewares and bric-a-brac are spread throughout. There are no set prices for types of clothing, but most items are a bargain. Recently spotted: skirts, $4.99 to $5.99, tank tops, $1.99 to $3.99, dresses, $5.99 to $7.99. Among the notable finds were a black velvet dress ($5.99) and a carved wooden dresser ($29.99). Keep in mind that there are no dressing rooms, no refunds or exchanges, and it’s cash only. One more tip: the store is packed on Wednesday, when senior citizens get 50 percent off, so plan to visit another day to avoid crowds. Thursday is ideal, because students get 50 percent off on all red-, green-, yellow-, and blue-tagged clothes.

Vivant Vintage
318 Lincoln St., Allston; 857-228-8565
Hours: Wednesday to Friday, noon to 7 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It’s impossible to miss Vivant Vintage. The exterior has a colorful mural declaring it “home of the traveling spectacular.” If that’s not enough to draw you in, the eccentric atmosphere should be—it’s like walking into a collector’s attic, with items from vintage cameras and old typewriters to an elk head with a gas lantern dangling from its antler. It can be hard to tell what’s for sale and what’s part of the permanent decor, but owner Justin Pomerau will happily clarify. The clothes vibe is rock ’n’ roll bohemian: lots of leather jackets ($70 to $150), vintage T-shirts ($20 to $30), and button-downs with big ’70s collars. We considered a Mickey Mouse baseball shirt a solid deal at $25, but a vintage shirt full of holes seemed overpriced at $20. But overall, the quality and variety is impressive. There’s plenty of outerwear, dresses, leather bags, boots, wingtips, and ties ($15, 2 for $25). Check in on Yelp and get 10 percent off your purchase.

Store front of Buffalo Exchange

Buffalo Exchange offers trendy used clothes at affordable prices plus cash or credit on the spot when you sell your own clothing.

Boston

Boomerangs Special Edition
1407 Washington St., Boston; 617-456-0996
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, and weekends, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

One of Boston’s most popular chain of thrift stores (there are four), Boomerangs is noted for lavishly decorated windows, especially at Halloween and other holidays. Boomerangs Special Edition stands out from the others, with more upscale items. With high-end brands such as Proenza Schouler, Issey Miyake, Chanel, and Gucci, much of the merchandise looks like it came from a Madison Avenue boutique and costs more than what’s found at other Boomerangs. There are plenty of cheap bargains too, including men’s jeans for $10. Kitchenware, art, furniture (a granite table, originally $3,000, was $600), books, jewelry (a new White House Black Market necklace for $16), and more are also carried. Proceeds benefit the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. Find a list of locations here. Keep up with special sales via Boomerangs’ Facebook page.

Castanet
175 Newbury St., Boston, second floor; 617-536-1919
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, noon to 6 p.m., Thursday to Saturday, 11 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday “by chance”

Last May, the high-end consignment store Closet became Castanet. Thankfully for fans of the earlier store, Castanet has a similar product line: lots of designer pieces in excellent condition from brands like Dior, Dries van Noten, and Isabel Marant. Expect to shell out some serious money though: recently a pink D&G blazer was $225, and one of the many cozy cashmere sweaters was $135. There is more affordable apparel as well: a pair of shiny emerald J Crew trousers in good condition was $39. Castanet squeezes a lot of merchandise into two small rooms and offers one of the best deals available to those consigning clothing: 50 percent of the selling price. Call to set up an appointment.

40 South Street
40 South St., Jamaica Plain; 617-522-5066
Hours: Thursday and Friday, 1 to 7 p.m., Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Sometimes vintage stores feel more like museums, with a look-but-don’t-touch ethos. But 40 South Street has a down-to-earth vibe, with a fun and weird rather than prim and proper selection. On a recent visit, plaid dresses, pleated skirts, and fall vests adorned the chain link fence entryway of the postage-stamp-sized shop. You’ll find sparkly evening dresses, kitschy sweatshirts, men’s and women’s pieces from the ’60s to the ’80s, ranging from the basics (a cherry red puffy jacket, $35) to the statement-making (a velvet leopard print jumpsuit, $45). Owner, and local rocker, Hilken Mancini—cofounder of Girls Rock Camp Boston and Punk Rock Aerobics—plays punk classics while you peruse the racks. Take a look at her Etsy store to get a taste of the selection here.

Cambridge and Somerville

MIT Furniture Exchange
350 Brookline St., Building WW15-182, Cambridge; 617-253-4293
Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., first Saturday of each month, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A service project of the MIT’s Women’s League, the MIT Furniture Exchange (FX for short) has been selling used furniture and household goods at bargain prices to members of the BU, Harvard, MIT, and Suffolk University communities with a valid university ID since 1958. All proceeds benefit the MIT Women’s League Scholarship Fund, which provides annual financial support to MIT female undergrads. Recent finds included a golden wrought iron screen ($100) and an adorable table enhanced by FX staff with blue paint and a daisy stencil ($30). Check FX’s Facebook page to view pieces the team has rehabbed.

Raspberry Beret
1704 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-354-3700
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Host a shopping party, bring in some gently used clothing, or just stop by for this consignment shop’s many in-store sales. Carrying mostly mid-range women’s apparel—many pieces are around $30—it has an eclectic assortment of higher-end designer and more low-end, trendy merchandise. Some recent finds: a brand-new American Apparel velvet skater dress ($30), a striped Burberry mohair sweater ($45), a Louis Vuitton bucket bag ($500). Caution: plan to spend some time here. Most of the merchandise is on crowded, non-color-coordinated racks, meaning you may have to dig a bit harder to find what you’re looking for—but it’s worth it. There is also one small rack of men’s items. Your purchases might even help support a local charity: Raspberry Beret invites local nonprofits to open consignment accounts that any seller can opt to donate items to. The store offers a 50/50 split for nonprofits. Customers who buy such a piece get 20 percent off their next purchase.

Oona’s Experienced Clothing
1210 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; 617-491-2654
Hours: Daily, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Last month, this Harvard Square mainstay since 1972 reopened under new management. But don’t worry—the shop has stayed true to its original vision, offering a carefully curated mix of vintage and contemporary women’s clothing. With a spruced-up decor—including faux fur rugs and a carved wood velvet loveseat—it has an expanded selection of women’s vintage clothing from the 1960s to the 1990s. During a recent visit, we fell for a ’70s orange and yellow knit dress resembling a potholder (in the best way) ($76) and a rose print pencil skirt ($39) from the ’80s. While a little on the expensive side, Oona’s pieces are in great condition. The shop does buy vintage clothes, but buying has closed for the season. Check its website in the spring or sign up for the newsletter to receive updates on appointment openings.

Store front of Castanet

Castanet, on Newbury Street, carries designer apparel from brands like Dior and Isabel Marant at a bargain.

The Garment District
200 Broadway, Cambridge; 617-876-5230
Hours: Sunday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Kendall Square’s Garment District, with the biggest selection of vintage clothing in the Boston area, offers one-stop shopping for both vintage and contemporary secondhand clothes. It also houses Boston Costume, one of the area’s biggest costume rental locations. We spotted a contemporary leather and wool bomber jacket ($37.50) and a pair of black Calvin Klein overalls ($14) on a recent visit. The overalls were missing a side button, which brings up an important point—some items here have been preloved a little too much, so examine closely. The pieces here range primarily from the ’60s to the ’90s. Standouts were a yellow-and-white check shift dress ($30) and furry leopard print pants ($18). Check out the massive pile of clothing on the bottom floor, where you pay $1.50 per pound. Garment District buys clothes Wednesday through Saturday, from noon to 7 p.m., and prides itself on being a green business—anything that doesn’t sell is sent to a mill and ground up for reuse.

Keezer’s
14o River St., Cambridge; 617-547-2455
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Need a tuxedo but don’t want to spend full price? Keezer’s is the place to go. This Cambridge landmark, just off Central Square, offers thousands of new and used tuxedos for sale and rent. You’ll also find new and used men’s wear, including suits and outerwear. The store is noted for its superb collection of lightly used vintage and designer ties.

High Energy Vintage
438 Somerville Ave., Somerville; 617-764-0141
Hours: Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 8 p.m., Sunday, noon to 6 p.m.

Recently relocated from Teele Square to Union Square, High Energy Vintage is a tucked-away gem with a serious retro-futuristic vibe and a ton of vintage treasures. Owner Andrew Wiley whistles along to ’80s electro-pop as customers look through the merchandise, which ranges from men’s and women’s vintage clothing and shoes (most appear to be from the ’70s and ’80s), vintage video games, cameras and other electronics, and vinyl records. Among recent highlights: a Japanese release of Mario Party 2 and 3 for Nintendo 64 ($15 each), a corduroy auto club jacket with “Gene” embroidered on the front ($38), and a pair of black leather shorts ($32) the accompanying tag deemed the “cutest daisy dukes you ever did see.” Most of the records retail for $10, but there’s a $1 record bin out front. Don’t miss the $5 “trunk o’ treasure” right inside the door. Check out High Energy’s Facebook page for sales and new store additions.

Kylie Obermeier can be reached at kylieko@bu.edu.

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