Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Blogger Jen Knightstep Takes Us On A Thrift Tour Of Detroit, MI

My name is Jennifer and I'm a thrifter.  
I've been hooked since I was six, when my frugal mother took me back-to-school shopping at our local Value Village in Sacramento. Over the years, my passion for saving money while dressing like I paid retail prices has become more of a mild obsession than a habit. For me, it's about the thrill of the hunt. Sure, I bring a list with me when I shop. But it's just to make sure I don't forget the things I need, and not an indication I should stop and head to the register when I'm done. You'll find me scouring the racks at my favorite thrift store once a week. And this week, I'm looking for picture frames, overalls for my daughter Sophie's Halloween costume, more little buildings for Sophie's St. Nicholas Square Village, a pretty camera bag and some long-sleeved tops for running. But who knows what other treasures I might find? 

Now, say what you will about Detroit. But bankruptcy and corrupt government and all, we still have some of the best thrifting on the planet. My favorite is Community Thrift Store, located at 37545 Gratiot Avenue, just north of the city. I’m there at least once every two weeks. I’d go more often, but… my friends and family might sit me down for an intervention. WHAT. I CAN STOP ANYTIME I WANT.

Why hello there, beautiful! 

The Basics:

  • The hours are 9-6, Monday thru Saturday. 
  • Cash only.
  • Ample parking.
  • Unisex restroom.
  • No fitting room.
Those “basics” don’t tell you much about the place, so let me fill in some details. Let’s start with the sheer size of the place. They have everything and lots of it, all neatly organized. The organization of the racks of clothing makes the OCD going on in my closest look tame. Each section is sorted by type of clothing and then by color. Long-sleeved shirts never mingle with short-sleeve shirts. Tees are in a separate aisle from button-downs. 
And they have more than just clothes. They have everything up to and including the kitchen sink: furniture, housewares, small appliances, shoes, handbags, books. You name it. 

Oh good lord, the shoes! All sorted by color and type. 

The prices are delightfully low, as well. And as an added bonus, every day they offer the “color tag of the day” for half-price. Sometimes, there are three colors of the day, occasionally with one that’s 75% off. The day’s sale colors are posted on a bulletin board at the front of the store, right as you walk in and grab a cart…something which you’ll want to do, for sure. 

Today, I’m looking for picture frames and rain boots. If I don’t have a lot of time to spend, I’ll just put blinders on and only shop for the items I need. But as luck would have it, I have the time to spare today… so I’m going to shop the whole store. 
Photo frames? There are lots, but none that are exactly what I want. On to housewares, where I see a pile of white plates that match the theme I want when I re-do my kitchen. They’re by Crate & Barrel, heavy and in perfect condition with the stack of three priced at only $3.95. Onward to lamps, where I find the most adorable St. Nicholas Square Village “Gumdrop Shoppe” for Sophie’s collection. My smartphone says they’re selling for about $25, plus shipping on eBay. But here it’s $7.95 originally, then half off. Into the cart it goes! Down the toys aisle, then to shoes. Oh, shoes. I spend a good half-hour here. Rain boots? They’ve got a few.

A small selection of rain boots.

After shoes comes books, where I find the AJ Jacobs books I’ve been dying to read for ages. Only 95 cents. Yes, into the cart. And though I don’t normally, I also skim through the CDs and actually find one I lost in a house-fire back in 2006. It’s also only 95 cents. 

If God was one of us, he'd shop here. I just know it. 

Now it’s time to dive down each clothing aisle, where the possibilities are endless. I find a tee shirt I love, by Lucy, with a tiny quote on the hem that says “I believe in sweat.” Into the cart!

I do believe in sweat, actually.

Up and down the aisles, from tank tops to shorts to athletic wear, on to long-sleeved button downs, short-sleeved button downs, tee shirts, long-sleeved tee shirts, sweaters, dress pants, casual pants, jeans, skirts… and my cart is packed. I couldn’t fit another item of clothing on top of the pile without something sliding off. I make my way to the back of the store, where it’s time to try everything on. 
Now, about the lack of fitting rooms... If you arrive appropriately attired in a tank top and long skirt, it is possible to try on clothes. There’s a single unflattering warped mirror at the back of the store where everyone gathers to try on their fashion finds. Granted, the area does occasionally attract opportunistic pervs. There was one embarrassing incident when I accidentally mooned the world when my skirt got caught in the back of the jeans I was trying on (But it was totally worth it, though. Those jeans were AWESOME and TOTALLY ON SALE). There’s no return or refund policy. So be bold. Be daring. Be slightly immodest, and try on everything before you buy it. 
As my cart empties, some things become apparent. I have way more here than I can afford to buy. I have a thing for the color blue, and I may also have a thing for shoes. Of course, not everything in the cart fits, so it goes neatly on the rejects rack. I end up with one cute coral colored top with crochet accents from Abercrombie (with the tags still on), the three white Crate & Barrel plates, the AJ Jacobs book and the St. Nicholas Christmas house for Sophie. The line at the register is short, which gives me little time to regret not buying that Lucy tee which was just a little too big. 

Today's haul was less than $13!

It’s almost bittersweet to be leaving… but it’s okay. I’ll be back next week… and maybe I’ll see you there. *wink*

Many thanks to Jen, writer/editor/thrift shoppin' professional, for sharing her firsthand experiences of secondhand shopping in Detroit. While Jen shops some 600 miles away from my Philadelphia stomping ground, if I ever find myself in the Detroit area, I know where I'll be hunting and who will be my thrifty tour guide. 

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Melissa said...

That shop looks awesome! I know where I'm headed if I'm ever in Detroit.
: )

Anonymous said...

Does Jen have a blog of her own?
The next best thing to thrifting yourself is doing so vicariously, reading what someone else found at their thrift store.

Jackie Jardine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jackie Jardine said...

As always, thanks for reading, ladies. Jen is actually the editor-in-chief of All Women Stalk, which I am now affiliated with as a freelance writer. Let me tell you, it's pretty flattering when your own editor asks to be a guest contributor on your blog, ha ha.

Feel free to check out All Women Stalk at

<3 Jackie

Laura S Reading said...

The merchandise looks much newer (or less damaged) than many thrift stores I frequent.
That does not stop me from returning to find the hidden treasure.

Jackie Jardine said...

I agree, DogsMom! From the organization of the sales floor, to the items themselves, this thrift store has some nice wares!

<3 Jackie

Witchcrafted Life said...

Great guest post - it's always so fun to glimpse the insides of thrift stores in other parts of the world. Wow, I don't know if I've ever seen more than one pair of ladies rain boots in a thrift store at the same time. Given that I've been on the hunt for some for years (I have hard to fit feet, and rain boots are one of the trickiest styles of shoes for me to find a comfy pair of), I'd definitely be making a beeline for that shop if I lived anywhere even remotely close to it.

♥ Jessica

Jackie Jardine said...

Thanks for reading, Jessica! I hear ya loud and clear on the rain boots. I have a wide-foot, wide-calf which apparently means a slim selection. But this thrift shop actually looks like it could have something for me. If I'm in Detroit, I know where I'm going thrifting!

<3 Jackie

Mom and I, Hooked on Thrifting said...

Loved all those rain-boots or wellies(as they are called in the UK). With all the rainy weather in the bay area right now, would love coming across a selection like that while thrifting. Love your blog Jackie! Julie