Guys, I tried. I really tried. I even took a friend with me so mine wouldn't be the only opinion.
But the state of thrifting within the DC city limits is pretty darn dismal. Oh, there are a couple of bright(er) spots, but they're about as far into the outskirts of the city as you can get without actually being in the suburbs.
The usual caveats apply. I'm not looking for clothing or brand new stuff. I'm mostly searching out vintage items for my own collection and my Etsy shop. Your mileage may vary, especially if you've got a store on your walk home from work or something that you can hit every day. And I mean EVERY DAY. Or you're probably not going to find a thing. That said, here's what I found on my thrifting trip into DC.
St. Alban's Opportunity Shop
3001 Wisconsin Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20016
This small shop in the basement of St. Alban's Episcopal Church is run by volunteers from the congregation as far as I can tell. It's not huge, but it's pretty much what you'd expect from a small shop in an upscale area. They sift through merchandise carefully so there isn't any junk on display. I bought a vintage lampshade for $2 and a carving set in a nice walnut box that will likely end up in my Etsy shop. Parking here was a bit of a puzzle until I realized that you can literally park for free right in front of the National Cathedral on Wisconsin Avenue. The only private parking belongs to the school and is reserved for faculty, staff and students. Do not park there. Even though it was snowing the day we visited, they were actively towing.
Georgia Avenue Thrift
6101 Georgia Avenue
Washington, DC 20011
I bought an addition to my collection of Zanesville Stoneage Modern pottery. I swear, there is so much of this stuff! It's a cheap an easy thing to collect and they make rather a nice statement when grouped together. This one was $3. My friend bought an Art Deco liquor dispenser here. There's an okay selection of housewares here and a small amount of furniture in the back. I think if I were to ever develop a Maryland thrifting route, this store could be on it since it's practically in Takoma Park. Plus parking is easy and free.
2200 South Dakota Ave. N.E.
Washington, DC 20018
Goodwill never disappoints. The store on South Dakota is a good example. The staff is friendly; the store is clean and pretty well organized. It's not a huge Goodwill so the selection isn't as good as, say, the store in Fairfax, but there's a decent amount of furniture and housewares to make it worth the trip. We were pretty tired by the time we finally made it there, but I did find a cool mid century lamp that just needs a little clean-up and a new shade for $4. I'll keep my eye out for shades the next time I hit The Closet in Herndon. It needs a taller one than the one I bought at the St. Alban's shop. Parking here is easy and free in their parking lot.
We visited a couple of other stores too. Martha's Closet on 14th Street seemed to have some nice name-brand clothing, but they had almost no housewares and no furniture at all that I could see. American Rescue Workers Thrift on H Street was a bit better in that they did have furniture (including a bright green sofa that both my friend and I were rather desirous of) and a very friendly staff, but the store itself is pretty dingy. We didn't make it to the Salvation Army store in Southeast so I'll have to check that out on another day. You know how much I love the Annandale store so I'm sure I'll get there at some point.
In summary, We drove all over DC. It took about 5 hours. I bought less than $20 worth of stuff and spent probably another $5 on parking. On a typical day of thrifting my suburban routes, I'll spend about $40 and nothing at all on parking in an hour and a half. If you live in the suburbs, I'd say there's not enough bang for your buck (or really, time) here. If you live in the city, I think a different strategy than the one I use is probably in order. I could never see making a regular route out of the DC stores considering how scattered over the city they are. All in all, I'm newly appreciative of how many awesome thrift stores we have in Fairfax County.
So did I miss any of the thrift stores in the DC city limits? Or can you tell me that I just visited on an off day? Please tell me I did else I'll just have to feel quite badly for all of you city-dwellers.