Anyone in search of a thrift store with a wide-ranging selection will not find it in South Philly.
Only a 30-minute ride on the 23 bus will bring you to unimaginable thrift store havens. Many people aren’t aware of the quirky Bargain Thrift Store on Germantown Avenue or the expansive Salvation Army on Pechin Street in Manayunk if it weren’t for the Thrift Store Tour led by honors religion professor Laura Levitt.
Soon after our bus had reached Bargain Thrift Store, students began to mill around the spruced up warehouse for a few minutes. The smell of old clothes seemed to excite them more and more. Among second-hand wedding dresses, Bill Cosby vinyl records, sweaters akin to rugs and neon women’s sports jackets, Temple students distinctly stood out from the seemingly regular customers.
Unabashedly enjoying themselves, they pushed around shopping carts mounded with clothes, wore a king’s robe and implored each other to try on different pieces.
Aaron Miller, a freshman pre-medicine major, didn’t know why he went on the tour, but found plenty worthwhile and interesting things that afternoon – not just the Temple T-shirt and retro Eagles sweatshirt he got for $3.50 total.
“I just think it’s interesting to see how items travel from place to place and something from my hometown ends up second-hand at a store in Germantown,” Miller said. “And you also see things from Upper Darby and things like ‘FBI Task Force.’ Like, I don’t know where that comes from – who’s returning their FBI Task Force shirt?”
The girls, seemingly less interested in the origin of their purchases, were clearly in the zone. With the total amount of dollars spent ranging from $8 to $100, everyone seemed very proud of their purchases. Whether they were new to the tour, new to thrifting or experienced at both, Temple students were pleasantly surprised.
Freshman pre-pharmacy major Jessica Douthit is an occasional thrifter who spent $30 on a few new outfits. Douthit was a fan of both the Bargain Thrift Store for its obscure finds and the Salvation Army for its selection and organization. Her overall impressions of both places made her want to go back.
“I wanted to find some really cool thrift stores in Philly,” Douthit said. “I’d been to some before but I knew this was going to be different stores that I’d never even seen before. Everyone was really friendly and we got along well and it was just fun to give things to people and pick things out and I’d say it was a pretty good day.”
Mamatha Chary, a sophomore psychology major, splurged a bit on clothes for her friends and a few small purses, but only ended up spending $40.
“I was here last time and I came to the store and I really liked it because [Bargain Thrift Store has] really nice shoes and really cute clothes,” Chary said. “Sometimes they have really cheap clothes that are designer and business.”
Levitt, the thrift store guru, started giving the tour a few years ago because she couldn’t keep her love of thrifting to herself. With a firm distaste of shopping malls and department stores, Levitt has always enjoyed giving old clothes new life and finding treasures buried in clothing racks.
“I have always liked bargain hunting, and even as a child I went to rummage sales that my synagogue would sponsor and found wonderful things,” Levitt said. “These days I go to shops where I know the owners – Worth Repeating and Fashion Forward in Chestnut Hill – and I like the small-scale of the shops, the regular customers and playing dress up. . .It’s what I do for fun and I see it as a part of my creative process as a writer; again, it clears my head.”
Chris Zakorchemny can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.