Thrift store shopping is secondhand awesome

A thrift store doesn’t just offer items with a unique style; those with enough diligence and a little luck can also find top-name brands there.

“We get a lot of Liz Claiborne and Alfred Dunner, and Tommy Hilfiger. You name it, we get it,” said Pat McAvoy, manager of the Key on Central. “We’ve had Wilson leather in the wintertime, and we’ve got some dresses in from David’s Bridal. I’m assuming they’ve only been worn once.”

The Key on Central, at 1030 Central Ave., benefits the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center.

The Key gets plenty of brand-new items, McAvoy said.

So do Goodwill and the Village General Store.

“I can’t tell you the number of times that stuff has come in that’s nice and high-end,” said Lisa Dodgen, Village General Store manager, “but also the times they’ve had the tag still on it. It’s never been worn.

“We all do it. We get into the store and we see something we really like,” she said, “but eventually we run out of closet space, and we say I love it, but it’s just not for me, I don’t have any place to wear it.”

Village General Store, at 12 N. 25th St., is associated with Opportunity Village and Northwoods Living.

“You’re just amazed at what people give,” said Goodwill Manager Loree Lee. “Brands like Miss Me …”

“Vera Lang, the Buckle, Vanity,” said Jill Pringle, Goodwill back room supervisor.

“Aeropostale,” Lee added. “Tommy Hilfiger has kind of gone out, but we get that too.”

The Fort Dodge Goodwill, at 2735 Fifth Ave. S., uses its income to hire individuals in need, and operates Youth Employment Services for special education students.

To find these brands takes patience, Lee said.

“The thing about thrift stores is you have to look completely through the rack,” said Dodgen. “If you skip a rack, it might be in there.

“Don’t be afraid to look at the tags. Sometimes, something might not catch your eye, but once you realize that it’s actually Prada or Polo or Buckle, you realize that the quality is there. It might not be the flashiest garment, but it will last you longer.”

At the Key, “We get the biggest donations on Tuesday, so it sometimes takes a couple days to get it out,” McAvoy said.

But all three stores said they put wares out throughout the week.

At Goodwill, “There are some people who come in several times a day,” said Pringle. “When someone comes in here who doesn’t usually shop here, they don’t see that stuff, and they think we don’t have it. We do, it’s just that other people are getting it.”

Those who take the time can sometimes discover real treasures, Dodgen said.

“We have some brands come in that I know are expensive, but are not popular around here,” she said. “Like we had a Burberry trench coat. That’s big in London, that’s big on the coasts, people get excited about Burberry, but around here they don’t know what it is.

“It was probably $500 original, I had it for $30 here and it just sat here.”

Dodgen has also sold Wembly ties and a “gorgeous” Gucchi suit.

“I had a swim suit one time, that the price tag was $400,” Pringle said.

Of course, the thrift stores hold a wide range of styles.

“We get everything from vintage to brand-new,” said Lee.

“Some people are looking for the vintage, the cool, the offbeat,” Dodgen said. “I’ve had – how to even describe it? It was a pair of pants with matching bikini top and sheer blouse, in a dark-green paisley pattern. It was obviously representative of its era.”

McAvoy said she once sold some red patent leather boots that came up to about her thigh, with a 6-inch heel and sequins.