Friday, February 21, 2014

2014 Thrifting Guide to Northern Virginia

Last year when I first started thrifting in earnest (as opposed to just stopping by a store occasionally when I was in the neighborhood) it came to my attention that there really wasn't a great resource online for local Northern Virginia thrifters so I thought I'd write one. My readers have really seemed to get behind this little guide so I thought I'd go ahead and update it for 2014 with some more recent observations. Keep in mind that I'm generally looking for vintage furniture and housewares so I'm biased toward stores where I keep finding things I love. I don't spend a lot of time looking at clothing so if that's what you're into, your mileage may vary. Happy thrifting!


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. Recently this store hasn't been the treasure trove of months past, but every store seems to have its hot and cold streaks. My best finds here were a gold bar cart last spring, a half dozen studio ceramic pieces over the summer and the occasional cache of great barware. Just be patient and wait for spring cleaning to start. This store has been so great in the past, I find it hard to believe that it won't be again.

9960 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22031

The Goodwill store in Fairfax is the thrift store closest to my house and now that Chester's groomer is based out of the new Petsmart on Pickett Road, I'm here even more often. Lats year this store expanded into the space next door and filled it to the brim with furniture. You can always get some great buys on vintage teak dining tables and retro 1960s sofas. The quality isn't as consistently good as the Salvation Army in Annandale, but the bargains are better. There are always specials listed on the chalkboard at the front of the store. DC area Goodwills also have a Foursquare special so check-in when you arrive and see what it is. Right now it's 25% off donated furniture.



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 so the prices are often a little higher than your typical thrift store, but the quality is also generally better. There are always tons of mid century ceramics here and like-new furniture from every age. If you don't want to do a lot of refinishing and reupholstering yourself, this is the store for you. The tags here are colored by how long the stuff has been in the store so make sure you check the signs or ask about which color is on sale that day.



Salvation Army Annandale
6528 Little River Turnpike
Alexandria, VA 22312

This is a huge store and they have a large selection of furniture and housewares. Don't miss the back room where they keep all the housewares and books, away from the main floor with the furniture and clothing. This is consistently my favorite store for vintage furniture and housewares. I've bought Broyhill Brasilia pieces here, Adrian Pearsall and plenty of lesser-known but high style mid-century furniture. Just today they had a solid mahogany dresser from circa 1850 with hand-cut dovetails. It was beautiful and I'm still pining over it. Art and designer mid century dishes are some of my best and more frequent finds. Plus the staff is just super, always willing to check the back for missing pieces to a set or help you out to your car with your purchase. Wednesdays are 25% off days, but get there early. The place gets picked clean very quickly.



Goodwill Annandale Plaza
7031 Columbia Pike
Annandale, VA 22003

This store's address is on Columbia Pike, but the driveway is actually off John Marr Drive, which connects Little River Turnpike and Columbia Pike in Annandale. This store is brand new last year and the first few months before the rest of the world figured out it was there made for some amazing pickings. I found two original oil paintings there last year for under $20 that turned out to be worth $900. It's hasn't been quite that great in recent months, but it's rare that I won't find anything at all. They've recently turned over more space to furniture and they always seem to have great dining chairs and end tables. Check the specials on the chalkboard at the front of the store and don't forget to check in on Foursquare for another discount.


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 Lilly 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 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 and there is stuff literally everywhere from the floor to the ceiling. That said, if I lived closer, I'd go every day they were open. 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 because they don't take credit cards.



Goodwill Herndon
2421A Centreville Road
Herndon, VA 20171

Another store to avoid at lunchtime, the Goodwill in Herndon is located in the Clocktower strip mall amidst several restaurants that get very busy midday. However, it's always worth the trip because I can almost always find a decent quality antique that just needs a little love. My 1920s movie theater seats came from here and last spring I found a cache of a lifetime of mid century ceramics. It was like someone cleaned out an antique booth and donated it all to Goodwill. Parts of Herndon are both old and affluent so it's unsurprising that this store would get some good stuff. Like the other area Goodwills, this store has a chalkboard in front that shows the daily discounts and the Foursquare specials work here too.



Treasure Hound
14508-D Lee Road
Chantilly, VA 20151

Is it wrong to like a thrift store just because I can bring Chester? Friendly animals on leashes are welcome at Treasure Hound because it benefits Friends of Homeless Animals. It's also a great store. They have a tendency to check eBay prices on high end porcelain so those prices aren't any kind of bargain, but on barware, less precious mid century dishes and the odd small piece of furniture, I've found them more than fair. Just recently I picked up an early 20th century ashtray on a stand for just $25. This stores generally has daily specials. If they're not posted on the door, just ask. Plus, they have a frequent buyer program so make sure you get your punchcard.

For the record, here are the stores I don't bother with, mostly because I've never found anything worthwhile within my narrow band of interests. That doesn't mean they're not good stores for others. I just haven't ever found anything great at these shops and I've pretty much stopped visiting them, but include some notes here for your reference.

Second Chance Thrift in Fairfax City - small, but conveniently located on Route 123
Unique Thrift in Merrifield - huge, tons of clothes
Pender ReGift in Chantilly - oddly located in a warehouse type environment, but tons of furniture
Western Fairfax Christian Ministries in Chantilly - extra low prices

That pretty much covers the ones I make it to regularly, which covers a lot of Fairfax County. I need to update my Route 1/Alexandria corridor list of stores and I've had a couple requests for an Arlington/Falls Church route so I'll try to get to that in the next few months. I did Prince William County last summer, but soon that will also want updating too. I'll update this post as I hit these other areas like I did last year.

Did I miss any Northern Virginia thrift stores? Let me know in the comments.

UPDATE: Check out my list of Arlington and Falls Church thrift stores here.
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