By Kate Freeman
Used clothing, like leftover pizza, sometimes gets better with time. San Francisco’s bevy of thrift stores offer up the perfect hunting grounds to find unique items or revamp your wardrobe while on a budget. You can be sure that the city-by-the-bay— once the epicenter of 1970s hippie culture and now leaders in the “green” movement— has a special place in its heart for a waste-not, want-not philosophy. And it’s not just clothing being sold at thrift stores. We found shops that sell everything from wigs to microwaves to pewter serving trays. Perusing thrift store racks requires a lot of patience, but the payoff can be stellar. We scoured the city in search of the best thrift stores and uncovered places where you can find one-of-a-kind pieces, as well as department store clothing for a fraction of the original cost. See what bargains can be uncovered and save your cash for the cable cars.
1414 Van Ness
San Francisco, CA 94109
Hours: Mon to Fri 10:30am-6:30pm; Sat 10am-6pm; Sun 12pm-6pm
If you’ve ever walked past this furniture store’s windows, you wouldn’t forget it. Take a peek inside this shop of used and vintage pieces and make your dreams of creating an apartment worthy enough to appear in ELLE Décor magazine a reality within reach. Whether you’re decorating your first apartment or you’ve lived in your home for 30 years, it’s likely something in this store will appeal to your tastes.
Insider tip: They recently consolidated their two shops to their current Van Ness location between Bush & Pine.
(10 stores in the city)
1700 Haight Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
Hours: Mon to Fri 10am-8pm; Sat 10am-8:30pm; Sun 11am-8:30pm
It may be surprising that the shop where your great aunt Grace donates her tattered aprons and dishtowels once a year also carries some totally rad accessories. A wide belt with turquoise beads is laid-out across a table with other equally stylish belts, necklaces and accessories. There are ten Goodwill shops in San Francisco, with the flagship store at 1580 Mission Street. During the weekends, the Haight street location is swarmed with fashionable shoppers wearing enviable clothing, so it might be a wise guess that Goodwill’s inventory is chocked-full of awesome finds.
Insider tip: New items are put on the floor every day, so the best time to shop is right when it opens.
Out of the Closet
(Three locations in San Francisco)
1498 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
Open Monday- Saturday from 10-7, Sunday 10-6.
This Polk Street corner shop exemplifies the adage, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” The organization of this thrift shop is okay and the shop itself is quite dingy, but once I thumbed through the racks of clothing, I found some good brands for cheap prices, example: a Banana Republic top for $5. One employee told me that they only accept clothing in good condition: no rips, holes, stains, missing buttons, so no worries about buying something damaged.
Two walls of shelves showcased a variety of dishes, cookware and kitchen items. The store also carried a large collection of CDs, books, some jewelry, vintage electronics, lots of purses and a wig. Another bonus: 95 percent of the proceeds go to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Insider tip: The coolest, newest-looking clothing and jewelry were on the mannequins in the window.
2101 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
Hours: Monday- Friday 9-8, Saturday 10-7, Sunday 10-6
Located in the Mission, this store appears to offer the lowest prices compared to other thrift shops in the area. Although Thrift Town is a chain, you can score some fantastic finds. The clothing is pretty well organized with sizes and styles generally on the correct racks, making it easier to navigate this massive space and find what you’re looking for.
Insider tip: Every weekday 4,000 items on placed on the sales floor, making Monday-Friday the best days to shop. It’s also less crowded.
473 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Hours: Everyday from 11:30 a.m.- 7 p.m.
This thrift-meets-vintage store houses a collection of hip clothing and accessories. They don’t accept donations, but always have new items from their warehouse to put out on the floor. Clothing is sold for $10 a pound; accessories are price-marked.
Insider tip: They’re bringing back the $1 rack this week!
Helpers Bazaar in Ghirardelli Square
900 North Point Street – Lower Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94109
Hours: Everyday from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This high-end thrift store is stocked with the crème de la crème of designer duds and vintage pieces. There is a section of high-end menswear by designer Wilkes Bashford, as well as other labels that can be difficult to find at such deeply discounted prices. Feel good about your purchases—100 percent of the proceeds benefit Helpers of the Mentally Retarded, a non-profit dedicated to helping the developmentally disabled. There is also another location in the city, Helpers House of Couture, where more designer duds are stored. This second location is accessible by appointment only, serious buyers please: (415) 387-3031.
Insider tip: Ask for Joy Bianchi, the store director who has worked in the shop since she was 13 – and is now 72. She can regale you with stories about famous fashion designers shopping her store, and point you in the direction of your favorite designer garments.
Kate Freeman is a freelance features writer living in San Francisco. Tweet her at @KateFreeman415 or check out her blog, eyeonsanfrancisco. Samples of her past work can be found at www.KateLFreeman.com.