Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bow Chicka Wow Wow: A Thrift Score, Indeed.

Consider this a small disclaimer: The following contains suggestive adult material which some thrifters may find unsavory. Now, with that out of the way...On to all the sordid details!

It was during last week's rummage-o-rama at  the Feasterville Impact thrift store when I found it. Something so dirty, so taboo, so wickedly a part of American history that I just had to have it.

Hiding beneath a stack of mismatched dinner plates, tangled in a mess of Christmas decorations in an over-stuffed tote of unsorted 99 cent bric-a-brac was a bronze keepsake that just didn't quite belong.

Vintage Mustang Ranch Thrift Store Find

I held the shining bronze medallion in complete shock for a moment. There, amidst some sweet ol' Granny's charitable donations was a customer token from Nevada's most infamous brothel.

The Mustang Ranch was Nevada's first licensed brothel in 1971, which led to legalized prostitution in certain counties of the state. Now advertised as an "adult resort and spa," Mustang Ranch is a recognized name in the seedy annals of Americana. 

Taboo? Yes. Inappropriate? Yes.
Likely found in a thrift store rummage sale? Um. No. 

And whatever your personal opinion of brothels and prostitution, admit it. This vintage brothel token is quite a find.

Apparently, the former owner was given this token by Arlene, a lady of Mustang Ranch. From what information I could find, high tippers and valued guests of the brothel would be given these tokens as a reminder of which lady to request for a future visit. 

I date this particular token to maybe the mid-to-late 70s...and found it buried beneath Christmas decorations...at the thrift store...for 99 cents. 

Talk about a thrift score!  Now, only one question remains: What does that single key open? I wonder...

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

What He Taught Me: A Father's Day Tribute

A father and daughter of yesteryear. 

Happy Father's Day!

I'd just like to take a moment to give credit where credit is most certainly due. To the man who taught me how to tie my shoelaces, how to ride a bike, how to memorize the multiplication table, how to drive, thank you.

To the man who introduced me to Led Zeppelin while cruising down the AC Expressway after one of our many family day trips to the shore, thank you.

To the man who has always been there to hear me laugh, cry, vent frustrations or just talk about thrifted finds, thank you. 

I am the person I am today because of everything you taught me. And I learned a long, long time ago that I could never ask for a better Dad than you. 


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Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Sweet Little Storage Solution for 99 Cents

In following my own advice, I took to Facebook to find some thrifty tips on sales and other secondhand happenings. Lo and behold, one of my top spots was having a huge rummage sale all week long. So I drove to Feasterville, PA to check out the goods. And oh, what a rummage sale it was. 

In hindsight, I should have taken photos of the rows and rows of totes filled to the brim with assorted bric-a-brac. But to be honest, I was a little overwhelmed by the mysteries within those totes just waiting to be unearthed.

According to the Impact Facebook page, they were recently flooded with small-item donations that were just too much for the staff to process and price. So they decided to pack 'em all up in totes...load those totes on wooden pallets and ship them out to all four of the Impact locations in Pennsylvania. And lucky me, there they were. All lined up and ready, everything inside those totes was just 99 cents each. 

So I rolled up my sleeves and proceeded with my very first thrift-dig. It was damn near archeological.  I'm not kidding. Young and old alike, thrifters hovered over those totes, digging through the great unknown and pulling  out all kinds of secondhand artifacts. It was so much fun, in fact, I went back to the Feasterville location a second day this week and to the Montgomeryville location once as well. 

I will be focusing on some of the found items individually, like in this post. And I'll also be doing a grand thrift wrap-up just to recap the experience. 

But as per this particular find... I saw that poof of faux flowers hiding beneath a pile of Christmas decorations. I moved some things aside and pulled out a creamy white tin with not a single scratch or dent.  This lovely tin used to hold Bon Bons. Now it's the perfect little storage piece for all my hair ties, headbands and bows. 

Now, isn't that sweet? 

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Top Five Tips On Being An Expert Thrift Shopper

"How do you find this stuff?" 

I've been asked that question a lot. Friends, co-workers, Facebook followers, they all want to know what I know about thrift shopping. So I'm going to share five helpful tips on how to score everything you want and more from the thrift. 

  • Thrift and thrift often. The best part of thrift shopping is the frequent turnover in merchandise. Donations are constantly coming in and new-to-you items are being processed, priced and moved to the sales floor every single day. Visit the thrift stores near you as often as you can. You won't always find secondhand gold, but when you do, it will be because of your tenacity. 
  • Looking for boardgames? Check the shoe section. Whenever possible, graze every single aisle. Hunt every department. Scavenge through every nook and cranny of the thrift. Like any other retail environment, shoppers change their minds on  items and carelessly discard them in any spot nearby. Even the most organized thrift store has this issue. This is, however, something that can work in your favor if you happen to find that perfect piece of Pyrex sitting in the toy bin.  
  • Know your labels. If you're a  treasure hunter looking for high-end wares, it helps to know designers' signature traits. The same can be said for finding authentic furniture, stemware, vases and even first-edition books. You might not be an expert in everything, but knowing what to look for in specific pieces can save you from getting duped by an impostor. 
  • Charge those smart phones. If you're a lucky owner of a smart phone, you have one multi-purpose thrift tool at your disposal. Google brand names, dates and anything you're unsure of to find more info on an item before you purchase. Map out a route for a day trip in the area and visit all the thrift stores you can. Take pictures to send to friends for a second opinion on an item...or just call them to brag about all the awesome junk you're scoring for cheap.
  • Get social.  Make your Facebook count for more than just Candy Crush and "like" your favorite thrift stores. If those thrifts have a dedicated employee who posts announcements about mass donations, pop-up sales or in-store events, you'll have some know-how that other thrifters may not. Use your social media outlets to virtually surround yourself with like-minded thrifters local to your area who will share the wealth. If I hear about a surprise sale or a new thrift store opening its doors, I spread the word. And I have plenty of friends who do the same for me.

It's true. A lot of the thrift experience can be chalked up to luck, simply being at the right place at the right time. One can even say there's an element of karma, or fate...that a much sought-after item just finds YOU. But sometimes hoping to find that certain something is not enough. Sometimes it means rolling up the sleeves and digging through those bins and boxes. It means visiting several thrift shops, several times a week. But it's a task that I do well. And now that you know a little more about how I navigate the thrift store, you're ready for the job. Happy hunting! 

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Have A Green Thumb With Greenbacks To Spare

Butterfly garden stick, $1 from Goodwill.

If you're anything like me, you love getting your hands dirty in the garden. You ditch the gloves and go for bare palmfuls of dirt to plant those seeds right into the earth. And maybe--like me--you also love flaunting a little decorative flair with planters, indoor and out. 

There's nothing so fresh and so naturally gorgeous as a blooming flower or foliage contained within some cute little planter. 

Our front lawn has a new mascot. 

Or in this case, maybe not so little...

I bought this oversized handmade wooden elephant from a local flea market last year. It originally had a removable wooden rack in its body, and was designed to hold magazines. But for me, Sir Artemis Stompington (Yes, that's his name) was a fine record rack indeed.

DIY elephant planter repurposed flea market find
Hand-carved wood elephant, $5 from the flea market. 

Since scoring a lot of awesome thrifted jams and therefore expanding my record collection, I realized Sir. Stompington needed to roam free... as a repurposed outdoor Petunia planter. 

First we drilled a few holes at the bottom for drainage, then we plopped him outside and  planted the flowers right in there. His wood is solid and shellacked, so he'll survive the season out in the wild. 

thrifted planters indoor garden secondhand cactus succulent thrifting
A collection of thrifted planters.

As for the inside, our picture window is the perfect display area for my little assortment of thrifted planters. (And yes, that's another elephant). I can't pick a favorite, but that pair of vintage owls...well they're just charming! 

I love having a few house plants and succulents here and there. They provide a nice pop of color and they really do oxygenize the room.

Vintage candy dish and heart-trimmed bowl, $2 each from Goodwill. 

I bought these two non-planter planters from Goodwill and knew immediately some succulents would do them well. A bright orange cactus for the candy dish and a waxy-leaved Peperomia plant for heart-patterned bowl. 

The trick to repurposing planters lies in the drainage issue.  Given the right sunlight and watering conditions, many plants can thrive year-round indoors. But not one of my indoor planters has holes for drainage. And this is exactly why I chose cacti and succulents. They require little water and little drainage. The root system sucks the water up and stores it, which means more creative planter options for thrifters like us. 

So the next time you see a mod little box or a kitschy mug, maybe you'll consider sticking a succulent in there. It's two green thumbs-up, thrifters! 

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Friday, June 7, 2013

In Memoriam, The Salvation Army Tragedy

It was 10:45 on Wednesday morning at the corner of 22nd & Market St. in downtown Philadelphia when tragically and without warning, an adjoining building that was under demolition collapsed onto a Salvation Army Thrift Store. Employees and shoppers alike were trapped under the heaping rubble of what was once a bustling thrift store in Center City. 

Thanks to the heroism of first responders and well-to-do civilians who first witnessed the collapse, a total of 13 people were saved.

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that 6 people lost their lives in that Salvation Army. 

As a regular shopper of this Salvation Army Thrift store when I was in college, I'm deeply saddened by this event. 

So, with our shared passion for vintage, for bargains, for thrift stores and secondhand relics, let us gather together for a moment of silence for the following: 

Anne Bryan, a local student, artist and thrift shopper at the time of the accident.
Mary Simpson, a talented figure skater and close friend to Anne Bryan who was shopping at the time of the accident.
Kimberly Finnegan, A Roxborough Salvation Army employee who transferred to the downtown Salvation Army Thrift Store. Tragically, her passing was on her first day of the job at this location.
Borbor Davis, a loyal employee of The Salvation Army who never missed a day of work.
Roseline Corteh, an African immigrant who loved worked at The Salvation Army. 
Juanita Harmin, a treasure hunter who visited The Salvation Army every Wednesday looking for bargains.

Having visited this Salvation Army thrift store with my sister and friends many times in the past, I cannot believe how this tragedy came to be. It's with extreme gratitude for their services that I am proud to say that Philadelphia has no shortage of heroes...the everyday citizens who spring to action without weighing their own personal risk...the fire fighters digging for signs of life for over 24 hours....the police who guarded the area and aided in the search and rescue... the EMTs and hospital staff who cared for the injured...everyone involved in helping those affected. 

Still, this loss of life in the thrift community is truly a tragedy. I never stop to think that one moment I could be thumbing through a box of records at the thrift store, and the next I could be seriously hurt...or worse. And honestly, I'm not sure I'll step into a thrift store again without the thought of those poor people weighing on my heart and mind.

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