Bargains to be had at Fort Myer Thrift Shop
February 10, 2012
Secondhand. New to you. Previously-owned. These are the euphemisms for merchandise with a history found inside the Fort Myer Thrift Shop. It could be a pair of leggings with an easily fixable pull in the stitching, a gift sweater in an unfashionable hue, an unloved toy still ensconced in shrinkwrap or a lamp that offers more form than function.
It's certainly true that one person's trash is another person's treasure. The base thrift shop is a sanctuary for bargain hunters looking to stretch a dollar in tough economic times. It's also a haven for collectors looking for one-of-a-kind clothing, rare books or out of print records, cassettes and CDs.
And if you have clothing and other goods you're looking to unload, the thrift shop takes donations and will sell items put on consignment from active duty military family members. Best of all, most of the profits from the thrift shop go to support morale, welfare and recreation programs for the Soldier.
If the price you see attached to an item in the thrift shop doesn't already seem low enough, consult the facility's website at www.fortmyerthriftshop.org for periodic sales and additional markdowns that occur the longer something's been on the floor.
"I'm looking for something nice at a good price," said Ruby Lewis, sifting through assorted clothing in the women's section. It doesn't matter if there's some minor flaw, said the wife of an Army retiree, because as a seamstress she can likely repair whatever's wrong. "It's going to be half off after April 10," Lewis exclaims, reading the tag on a knit that's caught her eye. Asked if she plans to come back to get the lower price, she clutches the garment to her chest and said, "No. I'm not going to give anyone else the chance."
Belinda Lewis Gorham joined her mother shopping at the thrift shop. "I'm looking for high-end designer items I can sell on eBay," she said, reciting famous name makers of shoes and handbags. There's no need to fight over anything, said Gorham. "They're putting out new stuff all the time, all day long. There's no competition." She said there's a circuit of secondhand stores in the area she regularly visits for unique finds.
"Business has doubled in the last four years," said thrift shop staffer Kathy Candido.
"Presentation is important. We work hard to go through donations and consignments and sort through them." She said store merchandise is always replenished because military families move frequently and are always trying to dispense with unneeded items. Candido said there is less of a stigma these days in shopping at secondhand stores.
A generation raised on the importance of recycling reusable materials has played an important part in the turnaround of attitudes. Robert Goss, a retired Army staff sergeant, said he likes to look through the book section. "It's readily available and you find things you don't see anywhere else," he said. Goss said he also likes to look over the old radios and circuit boards that have been turned in.
"I come in two to three times a week," he said. "There's always something new here."
andido said the store has many regulars. She said there's one group of middle-aged men who come in each week after lunch on base to sort through printed material. They're known by volunteers and staff as "the book boys." "They mostly look for military histories and biographies," she said. "We sell a lot of shelves, bookcases and filing cabinets," Candido said.
"There's a lot of house wares, glasses… We get a ton of women's shoes. We get a lot of things here that have never been used. Some things come in and you think they'll never sell but they do. It always surprises you."
Most volunteers and staffers have a story about some unique thing they got at the thrift shop. "We all buy things. Volunteers have first dibs on what comes in," said Candido, explaining how it rewards them for their service.
Worried about the reaction from a loved one if they receive something used, even if it's in pristine condition? Don't worry, the thrift shop has many of the designer totes that designer goods come in. Saks Fifth Avenue? Lord and Taylor? It's in the bag.
Donna Oscanyan works in a nursing home and was in the thrift shop buying sweaters and other warm clothing for residents who don't have anyone else to shop for them. "Sometimes their children have passed away and there's no one to get them things," she explained, testing the fabric strength in a woolen pullover. Vernon Cochran brought a portable, battery-driven turntable and headphones to the thrift shop to play a stack of old vinyl LP records He's a disc jockey, and said he'll sometimes play the original songs taken from samples used in contemporary music at functions where he provides the entertainment. Two keepers Cochran found on this visit were vintage albums from Funkadelic and The Brothers Johnson.
This was both Oscanyan and Cochran's first visit to the thrift shop, the result of unexpected buzz from a local nighttime television broadcast. An uptick in business was apparent after WRC-TV Channel 4 aired a segment about regional shopping bargains on its 11 p.m. newscast Monday. It included interviews with JBM-HH patrons and staffers.
Everyone can use a bargain. The thrift shop lets customers know they're getting a deal and at the same time helping out the military community. What can't be sold at the thrift shop goes to missions to distribute locally and overseas. Some unwanted material even gets turned into rags so that little is wasted.
"It's a place where you can come and stretch your dollar," said Candido. The thrift shop is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with consignments accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is also open some Saturdays. Consult the website for dates and additional information.