Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Thrifting Guide to Northern Virginia

I've updated this guide for 2014. HERE.

Whenever I talk to people about Pies & Puggles, I generally describe it as a blog about thrifting with a heavy dose of cooking and DIY. This inevitably leads to a discussion of the thrift stores I like best in the Northern Virginia area so I thought I should finally post my favorites here. I go out about twice a week and have a little rotation since these stores tend to be grouped together to some extent. I have a Fairfax route, an Alexandria route and a Herndon route. I also occasionally make forays into Arlington/Falls Church and Loudoun County, but those trips are more rare; Arlington because I find the selection to be both pricey and picked-over and Loudoun because it's just so darn far away. So mostly these are the ones on my regular routes.

INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital Thrift Shop
9683 Fairfax Boulevard
Fairfax, VA 22031

The INOVA Fair Oaks Hospital Thrift Shop is located right at Fairfax Circle on Route 50 across the street from Home Depot in a strip mall. This is probably the most consistent of the thrift stores I visit on a regular basis. Even if I find occasion to visit twice in one week, I will usually find something for my Etsy shop here. That said, the prices are all over the map, which sometimes leads to head-scratching experiences, from crazy high prices on sets of dinnerware (IKEA priced higher than new) to crazy low prices on other things, like a vintage wire, wheeled cart I bought for my husband's gaming stuff for $4. This was also where I found the musical ice bucket and where I find a lot of the ceramics that make their way into my shop. 

Goodwill Fairfax
9960 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22031

The Goodwill store in Fairfax is the thrift store closest to my house. I can't get to either the hardware store or the bank without passing it so I stop in there pretty often, which is probably why I've found as many good pieces there as I have. Lots of Dansk, the occasional piece of vintage barware, some mid century modern dishes. Goodwill is pretty rigorous about sifting out the real treasures for their online auctions, but if you know what you're looking at and/or you're willing to buy odds and ends (this set of Frankoma dishes), you can score some real bargains.

Annandale Treasure Trove
7010 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003

The second of the three INOVA shops I visit on a regular basis, the Annandale location does a lot of consignment business and I've often wondered if they have a refinisher on staff because a lot of their furniture seems to have been already touched-up. This is great if you want to bring something home and set it up in your house, not so great if you want a bargain project to work on yourself. That said, I've gotten some great deals on vintage barware here and I'm hoping that someone will convince them to sell the sad, white-painted Broyhill Saga desk where they have their boombox so it can be rescued. I always see mid century furniture here, usually in the $200 range, but since it's in generally really nice shape, this is a great place for people who don't want to have to do a lot of DIYing to get something pretty and inexpensive. I also seem to turn up a lot of vintage table linens here.

Salvation Army Annandale
6528 Little River Turnpike
Alexandria, VA 22312

This store has super friendly and helpful employees. If you're polite, you can often get them to check in back for you if you're missing part of a set that's on the floor and they are very proactive about helping you load stuff into your car (nice when you're alone and buying a dresser). This is a huge store and they have a large selection of furniture and housewares. The key is picking the day you visit. Wednesdays are 25% off days, but get there early. The place gets picked clean very quickly. My favorite day to visit is Tuesday, preferably late in the afternoon. You don't get the discount, but I think they must get a lot of drop-offs over the weekend and price throughout Monday and Tuesday because whenever I've been here on a Tuesday, I come out with a haul.

Back Porch Thrift Shop
7838 Richmond Highway
Alexandria, VA 22306

I've only been to this store twice, but both times I have found items well worth the drive. It's not a huge store, but they pack in quite a bit and have more furniture than many larger stores. I've found some nicely priced globes here as well as quite a bit of vintage glassware. This store is also notable for being willing to adjust pricing if you find something that you think is truly out of whack, which in my experience is a rarity in thrift stores. I don't negotiate on pieces that are going into my Etsy shop though. It's a charity shop so that's just rude. Also, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore is just about half a block up the street and they've got a lot of amazing furniture there too.

McLean Treasure Trove
1317B Chain Bridge Road
McLean, VA 22101
This is another INOVA shop that seems to do a lot of consignment business and McLean seems to be the spot for designer clothing consignments. This means very high quality items: name brands like J. Crew and Lily Pulitzer, but also serious designers like Balenciaga, Chloe and Oscar de la Renta. And they know what these designer items should cost, even used. I include this store only because the consistently high quality options mean that sometimes you can get a deal on a really amazing piece (the context here though is versus buying new). I buy something pretty much every time I visit, but it's usually for myself because the prices are too high for much resale wiggle room. And don't go at lunchtime because there's very little parking in the strip mall where it's located. Best bet is early afternoon.

The Bargain Loft
336 Victory Drive
Herndon, VA 20170

Here's a general thrift store tip: the best stores are ones located in relatively more affluent areas. The Bargain Loft falls into this category and it shows. It is lovingly staffed by volunteers from Reston-Herndon FISH, a social services organization in Northern Fairfax County. They take great care to inspect, research, tag and display the nice items that come into the store, which is admittedly pretty small. The prices here are a little higher than they would be at your typical Goodwill store, but while there might be items that don't suit your needs or tastes, there is virtually no junk. It's just a really well-curated store and the staff is not snooty like at some other higher end thrift stores. This is the place for mid century name brand housewares, beautiful table linens and high quality lamps.

The Closet of Herndon
845 Station Street
Herndon, VA 20170
The Closet is just a hoot. The hours are terrible, the place is always completely jam packed with people, it's impossible to park your car, there is stuff literally everywhere from the floor to the ceiling and they're always trying to get you to take their free bread. Seriously, every time you turn around, someone tries to hand you a loaf of bread. It's the weirdest thing. That said, if I lived closer, I'd go every day they were open. First of all, if you're a first timer and you happen to mention it, they'll ring a big ship's bell in the front of the store and everyone cheers. Second, if you're looking for something specific, just ask. I asked about a navy wool blazer one time and they didn't have any, but by the next time I visited, the manager remembered me and had put aside several in my size for me to choose from. That's unprecedented service for a thrift store. Third, this is far and away the best place to find things to repurpose. Tons of lamps, lampshades, dishes, clothing, a huge craft section with yarn, fabric, patterns, stamps and such. This store is not for people with a low tolerance for chaos, but if serendipity suits you fine, you'll love it. Oh, and bring cash (lots) because they don't take credit cards.

Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop
151 W Main Street
Purcellville, VA 20132

Whenever I find myself in Loudoun County, I make it a point to stop in at the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shop in Purcellville. I realize this is quite a haul for DC types, but Catoctin Creek Distillery is out here and it's just past Leesburg so there are plenty of other things to do if you want to make a day trip of it. The great thing about this store is that apparently no one in Loudoun County shares my love for mid century modern pieces. I visit every month or two and always find a large collection of items just sitting there waiting for me. And the best thing is that I'd call the pricing about half what it would be for similar items in a Fairfax County store and about a third the cost of comparable items found in Arlington County stores. 

That pretty much covers the ones I make it to regularly. There are a few others where I find the occasional great piece, but these are my go-to staples. Do you have a favorite thrift store in Northern Virginia? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATES: When I visit new stores, I'll add links to my reviews here and from now on, those posts will also be tagged "thrifting guide to northern virginia" so you can find them all easily.

Thrifty Old Town Alexandria

Annandale Goodwill on John Marr Drive

Thrifting Prince William County

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