Summertime, albeit oodles of fun, has rendered this editor a penniless pauper. It’s bad enough that a steady stream of barbecues, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and beach outings have turned my pupils permanently into dollar signs, but I’m also expected to look nice when I show up for them, too! If you’re in the same (rather humble) boat as I am, I’ve got good news. You can snag a polished wardrobe for über cheap, without having to shop at Forever 21. If you’re new to the concept or never thought to try it, maybe you’ll be swayed by the fact that I scored this entire summer outfit—that’s a dress, a belt, a pair of sandals, and a bag—for only $21 at my favorite secondhand shop. Impossible, you say? Stick with me on the first installment of our new series, “Goodwill Hunting,” as I unearth some hidden gems at the second-oldest thrift store in New York City: the Bayside Thrift Shop in Flushing, Queens.
I’ll level with you: I’m pretty loathe to tell anyone about the Bayside Thrift Shop (also known as the Northern Boulevard Thrift Shop or just “the thrift shop,” as my mom and I call it). First, this place has some of the most affordable prices I’ve ever seen. In fact, I find myself chuckling as I exit the shop (purchases tucked protectively under my arm), as if I’m getting away with some kind of crime. To put the prices in perspective, I purchased a practically brand new Ralph Lauren crested blazer here for $7 last winter. That’s less than the price of the new Lady Gaga album on iTunes. Plus, I’ll probably wear it more times than I’ll listen to all of her tracks—sorry, Gaga.
In general, I try to stay away from secondhand shops that are disorganized or in a permanent state of deshabille because it’s a clear sign that the proprietor doesn’t care about the merchandise. That being said, one of the reasons I love the Bayside Thrift is that the shop is nice and tidy, so picking out items is easy. It wasn’t long before I selected some breezy items for my outfit.
WHAT I BOUGHT
- ’70s-style tan dress: $10
- Preppy belt: $1
- Woven bag: $5
- Orange stacked-heel sandals: $5
Not included in the outfit:
- J. Crew baby-pink summer dress (like-new!): $10
- Straw hat: $1
Total spent: $21 ($32 with the extra items)
THREE QUESTIONS FOR THE OWNER
The owner of the Bayside Thrift Shop, known simply to everyone as “Nick,” is more like a neighborhood institution than a shopkeep. He can always be seen chatting up a customer or two in Spanish, Korean, or one of the other five languages he can speak. I asked Nick a few questions about what it’s like to own a secondhand shop.
How long has the Bayside Thrift Shop been open?
A very long time.
What is your favorite thing about owning a thrift shop?
Dealing with people. A thrift shop attracts a lot of different types of people—rich, poor. They all come here for different reason. Some because they think it’s trendy and some because they have no choice. It’s fun dealing with some people but not so much dealing with others.
At this point, a Chinese man interjected asking about a pair of shorts. Nick replied to him curtly in what sounded like Cantonese. You can’t make this stuff up.
What is your least favorite thing about owning a thrift shop?
I guess dealing with people [chuckles].
Nick appeared to be in a rush to close up, but he quickly added that one of the reasons that the Bayside Thrift Shop has remained successful for so long is its low prices. “Even most Salvation Armies sell their things for double our price,” he explained. He also shed light on something that I had never thought of before. “I think for a lot of people, coming here and thrift shopping is like a kind of meditation; that’s why they keep coming.” It’s true. There’s something about the thrill of finding practically pristine, sometimes-designer garments at unbelievable prices that will have you coming back for more.
Editor’s note: For more of Yuka’s DIY fashion tips and tricks, visit her website at Clossette.com