The hit song “Thrift Shop” by the rap artist Macklemore, featuring Wanz, is not only a catchy tune, but the message behind it is exciting: thrift shopping, or thrifting, is a validated part of pop culture.
The idea of shopping at secondhand stores is not a new one. As college students, finding good quality clothing on a budget requires creativity. Sifting through others’ unwanted items at thrift stores could result in great additions to any wardrobe.
While thrifting has been part of the stereotypical “hipster” subculture for several years, shopping at thrift stores is possible for people with a variety of different styles. Luckily, there is an abundance of thrift stores in Maryville to help expand your knowledge on what thrift stores do and the best ways to find what great new items for your wardrobe.
Community Chest is a favorite thrift store among Maryville College students. Most items in the store are only a dollar. There is even the occasional promotion where out of season items are even further reduced.
Community Chest has been open for about 10 years. It has always been privately owned. Despite this fact, Community Chest is a non-profit organization. When asked about the benefits of thrifting versus retail shopping, Annette Huffstetler, a dedicated employee of Community Chest, said that she believes there is no comparison.
“Retail is such a waste. There are better ways to spend your money,” Huffstetler said. “You can dress very nicely from thrift shopping, you just have to be patient and check regularly. At the Community Chest, we put out new clothes daily.”
Beyond making for a unique wardrobe, thrifting at places like Community Chest also has benefits for the community.
As a non-profit, most of the money made in Community Chest goes toward paying the building expenses. The rest is given to needy families that come in. The store also works closely with another ministry from Newport, called God’s Storehouse, which accepts any donations that do not sell in Community Chest and distributes them among people who are experiencing homelessness, or sends them to ministry programs overseas.
“There’s a lot behind the scenes here that you don’t see that the Community Chest is doing”, Huffstetler said.
Huffstetler said that the more the store is open, the more college-aged customers are present.
“We see a lot of Maryville students, and even students from Knoxville come here because we have the best vintage clothes,” Huffstelter said.
Huffstetler also said that thrifting is like “a rental.” She said that one goes into the store to buy something for a dollar, wear it for a while, donate it again and get something new.
“That’s how things keep going,” Huffstelter said.
Another local store to explore while on the hunt for bargains is 4 Chics and a Cat. This store, which calls itself a “twice as nice resale shoppe,” is a thrift store that dedicates its proceeds to helping animals in the area. In fact, the store is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization under the Blount County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
According to one of the “chics” behind the store, Ann Maurino, 4 Chics and a Cat is a hub for local charities that focus on animals in need. Whether the organizations benefit from the proceeds of the store or connections made to other similar activist groups, the store is providing services for organizations like the Human Society of East Tennessee and Smoky Mountain Animal Care.
When it comes to the title of the store, the love of animals is even further reflected. The famous store cat is a snow-white rescue, named Gabby.
“We have a lady who actually brings her dad in every week just to see Gabby,” Maurino said. “She’ll shop, but he comes just to see her. Gabby’s wonderful.”
While the focus of 4 Chics and a Cat is on the animal charity organizations that they support, the atmosphere of the store is also a priority. The store is organized, and the Maurino said that the staff makes an effort to avoid any mustiness that can be associated with similar thrift shops.
Because of these distinctions, 4 Chics and a Cat is categorized as a resale shop. The store is therefore more selective when it comes to donations. They don’t accept broken or damaged goods; however, the items they do carry range from very low priced clothing to valuable antiques.
“We have the most generous donors here,” Maurino said. “They have really kept us going.”
Whether you choose to support a local thrift store or a national organization like Goodwill, the proceeds of your purchase will support a form of charity. Not only are you helping your wardrobe by picking up unique items, but also donating to a worthy cause.
Thrift shopping is also one of the best ways to reduce one’s environmental impact. According to Greenpeace, the fashion industry is known for inappropriate discarding of hazardous waste and other polluting behaviors. Choosing to purchase secondhand clothing takes the support away from companies that are pumping out waste materials. Thrift stores also provide the perfect place for donations, while clothes might otherwise end up in landfills.
It is also important to know a few things that will make a trip to the thrift store as successful as possible.
First of all, the right mindset is key. Going into a thrift store expecting to find of-the-moment, trendy pieces will only lead to disappointment. However, secondhand stores are full of classic items that can be reworked into a modern outfit. For example, there are plenty of basics, such as white button-downs, leather belt and high-waisted skirts that are just waiting to be worn.
Another thrifting tip is to be open-minded. While it can be tempting to look for very specific things to add into one’s wardrobe, thrifted gems are usually found when one is not looking for them. Sifting through all of the sections in the store and pulling out anything that catches your eye can result in some interesting, unexpected finds.
Be careful, though, that not to buy things simply because they’re inexpensive. Unless you actually have the skills to alter the clothes, it is risky to buy an item thinking that you’ll wear it once you’ve sewn up a hole or shortened a hem.
As Maryville College students, we’re extremely lucky to have easy access to so many thrift stores. While 4 Chics and a Cat and Community Chest are our favorites, there are many others within a few minutes of campus. These cost effective stores also give you a great opportunity to support charitable causes.
Finally, you will proudly be able to say, “I wear your grandad’s clothes, I look incredible,” and truly mean it.