Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thrifting in Arlington Virginia

A few weeks ago, I posted an update to my Thrifting Guide to Northern Virginia for 2014. Promptly, I got three requests for some DC and Arlington thrifting spots. Now, ordinarily I avoid the thrifts closer to the city. Back when I was still working full-time in an office, Doug and I used to visit many of these on the weekends and my overwhelming impression was always that they were A) crowded, B) picked-over and C) expensive. Well, color me surprised. A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I took a mid-week trip to several of the thrift shops around Arlington and Falls Church. A few I had been to before and a few I hadn't, but I think we managed to find something at a reasonable price almost everywhere we went.

Ideally, my mission was to find some places a person could get to without a car. Now, I think nearly all of these spots are on bus lines, but none of them are what I would call Metro-accessible. If you don't do Zipcar or something like that, you might have trouble getting to all of these in a few hours like we did.

And again, keep in mind that I am almost always looking for mid century housewares and furniture. If you're thrifting for other things, your mileage may vary. So without further ado, here's my guide to thrifting in Arlington.

Falls Church Goodwill
6136 Arlington Blvd, Falls Church, VA 22044


I've only visited this store twice, once about a year ago and once on our trip a few weeks ago. The problem is the parking lot. It's hard to get in and out of, the shopping center where it's located is quite busy and parking is often a bit difficult. However, it is a relatively large store and I've seen several pieces of mid-range mid-century furniture here (like Dixie and Lane type quality). To be honest, I've never purchased anything here, but I haven't visited often enough to say I've given this store a fair shot.

Annandale Road Goodwill
2936 Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22042


This Goodwill has a great location, right off Route 50 in Falls Church. It's also a relatively new store so it's quite bright and clean. On this trip they had several antique pieces including a gorgeous Empire sofa, but the pricing was quite high: $800 for a tall cabinet and $300 for the sofa and neither were in great condition. I never complain about thrift store pricing, mostly because I'm often looking to resell and frankly, if the charity can get top dollar for a piece in their store, I think they should. I realize this is a semi-controversial point of view though so people looking for an antique at a steal might be disappointed. I haven't hit this store on weekdays often enough to tell if this pricing and selection is typical, but it's practically next door to the next stop on the list so it's worth stopping to check it out regardless.

Clock Tower Thrift Shop
2860 Annandale Rd, Falls Church, VA 22042


A picture is probably worth a thousand words in this case. Yeah, so this store is a little chaotic. And their pricing has tended toward the uneven. I've found West German ceramics at insanely low prices and mediocre glass at insanely high prices, but that's thrift stores for you. On this trip, I found some great Royal China plates at a great price so I was happy. I usually buy at least something every time I stop in here and their prices on furniture for refinishing or upcycling for personal use are generally fair. Lots of older solid wood pieces that would be really good candidates for fun paint jobs. One funny side note: Quinn's Auctions is fairly nearly this store and I saw a Partners estate sales tag on a few items on our recent trip. Quinn's owns Partners so it made wonder if they take some of their unsold inventory there?

Fort Myer Thrift Shop
224 Forrest Circle, Fort Myer, VA 22211



The Fort Myer thrift shop is probably the strangest place on this list. It's just like it sounds: the shop is located on the Fort Myer Army base in the middle of Arlington. If I were giving you verbal directions, they would include both the phrases, "you'll have to stop and wait until they search your car" and "drive past the stable on the left". That's just a little bit cryptic, huh? But the fact is, you will need your picture ID to get onto the base and unless you have a military or Defense Department ID, you'll need to have your car searched before they'll let you go shopping. That said, it's totally worth the hassle. There are actually two shops, one "boutique" where they keep higher end stuff and the other for more normal stuff. I found three sets of 1960s glasses and my friend found a really cute Anthropologie-esque jewelry box. The prices were quite low and they had a lot of really interesting furniture in addition to all the housewares and clothing. There were several lamps that I might have purchased if it hadn't been our first stop of the day, but I decided to save my cash. Turned out to be a good call because I found several more great pieces at other stores. This is one store I'll be visiting frequently in the future.

Glebe Road Goodwill
10 S Glebe Rd, Arlington, VA 22204


When people think of Goodwill in Arlington, they probably think of this location. It's right at the corner of Glebe Road and Route 50 and you can see it from the highway so it's hard to miss. I've gotta be honest: I've never had a lot of luck here and this trip was no exception. They seem to get tons of donations (I've donated here myself since it's so conveniently located on the way to or from a lot of spots), but I think the only thing we've purchased here were a few books for my husband. On this trip I spotted a very cool bright orange mod resin lamp, but it had two huge chips in it. It was priced right for the damage, but I still couldn't pull the trigger on it. I know the DC Goodwill Fashionista shops here pretty often though and she finds some great clothes so that might be the sweet spot for this store.

Columbia Pike Thrift Shop
4101 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204


This shop, run  by Trinity Episcopal Church in Arlington, is a small store that appears to be quite well run. The very front has a lot of vintage and antique housewares though the higher end stuff is kept on shelves behind the counter. I found a large wire plant stand for $3 and my friend got a couple of Eva Zeisel glasses for 50 cents each. My plant stand will get a spray paint makeover once the weather finally warms up because the paint is a bit worn, but that's a great deal considering I paid $12 for an almost identical one at the DC Big Flea last fall. I left behind some vintage digital clocks and we barely glanced at the clothing, but it seemed to be well organized and in good condition. I'd classify this one as a must-stop spot.

Columbia Pike Goodwill
4714 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204


Just up the street from the store above is the third Goodwill in Arlington/Falls Church. This store was the most crowded and busiest of the places we stopped, even on a Wednesday afternoon. We didn't pick up anything here on this trip, but I've found some mid century dishes (not big names) and Dansk wood pieces here in the past. This store is huge though and appears to get pretty good turnover in stock so if you're prepared to visit frequently, you could probably find some good pieces. Don't miss the art and furniture downstairs.

There's one other store that we missed on this trip right near the Falls Church Goodwill on Arlington Boulevard called Capital Caring. They have a "boutique" side and "regular" side too. We missed that one on this trip because we were starving and had to eat lunch before I took my friend back to the Metro. Oddly, the regular side of that store has been where I've found the majority of my Zaneville collection. I seem to find one every time I go. Both sides are pretty uneven as far as pricing and quality and neither are large, but they've had a good selection of both practical and decorative stuff in the past.

So help me out: did I miss any of the Arlington/ Falls Church thrift stores? What about consignment stores? I know there is one on Washington Boulevard, but anywhere else? Let me know in the comments!


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