One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. What used to be called “second hand stores” now are euphemistically known as “thrift stores which sometimes peddle high-end goods to economically savvy shoppers. Not as snooty as antique stores, but a step up from a junk store. In other words, they attract smart people who watch their pennies. Barbra Streisand wailing “Second Hand Rose” gave us a taste of what you could buy second hand.
We ran across a good example a week or so ago in San Juan Baptista when we spotted a great-looking junk store along the road called “Fat Willie’s which carried every sort of miscellany anyone could ever want. Roaming through the town itself we were drawn into “Fat Willie’s Antiques”; a store which brooked no bargaining, but which carried your grandmother’s china and furniture made by fellows like Chippendale, Duncan Phyfe and Hans Wegner (my personal favorite). Between the two stores, Willie was covering all the bases.
As a child my grandmother dragged me along to antique stores while she looked for old china and crystal pieces. I still have a crystal sugar bowl with a broken handle she gave me when I was 14.
In 1942, after the Depression was over, but while the War was still on, my grandmother, mother and aunt showed up each wearing fur coats. It was the first I ever heard that you could buy something that someone else had already used. A real Second Hand Store with “hand-me-downs”. Now, in case you have ever wondered, that term was used by Jewish immigrant merchants who sometimes hung garments on high racks, and when someone asked to see a certain piece would tell his associate to “hand me down” that coat or whatever.
At the suggestion of a friend some years ago, I volunteered my services to the Ladies Home Society in Oakland, California, a charity for the benefit of elderly ladies of refinement. My job was in the small thrift shop sorting through all manner of goods, including clothes, furniture, linen, etc. donated by the members. As first responders, we had first choice in pricing and perhaps purchasing the good stuff. I bought so many clothes that my children laughingly told me they would have to give it all back to Grandma’s Attic when I died. I was so naive at the time I could not believe that some of the lovely embroideries, handmade lace and household goods would not be cherished by children of those who were donating their belongings. Older and wiser friends assured me that the style favored by the next generation doesn’t always include their parent’s residual possessions, but donated clothing, especially beautiful clothing, has great appeal.
Today’s Thrift Stores seem to come in two types: non-profit and those which can make a lot of money for their owners. We knew of someone whose family had three large thrift stores. We keep a box in the garage for things we no longer use and donate to Hope Services, a local non-profit store which gives to the mentally challenged, a group our daughter worked for after college where she had majored in the mentally challenged. We have a well-decked out friend who proudly shows off his “bargain” attire which he picked up at a thrift store after serious and judicious shopping.
When I was teaching pottery classes, I encouraged students to donate their “failures” to a thrift store. After all, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure”, and something handmade is infinitely better than a cheap import.