THE THRILL OF THE THRIFT
Look no further than Port St. Lucie for bargain-hunting adventure
BY WHITNEY JOSEPH
If you haven’t visited one of Port St. Lucie’s many thrift stores, you’re missing a fantastic opportunity. Not only does thrifting [yes, the act of shopping in thrift stores has been formally recognized with its own verb] save consumers big when it comes to their bank accounts, but shopping at thrift stores allows this over-populated planet to upcycle products and repurpose them so they don’t end up in landfills. It also gives shoppers a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.
With inflation hitting family budgets, thrifting makes sense. But there is another great reason to hit thrift stores: They are where you can find some of the most unique, vintage and quirky items. Looking for an original party dress from the 1950s? Don’t expect to find it in a department store.
Another reason why thrifting is such fun is the thrill of the hunt. When you feel it, you know you’re a true thrifter. How appropriate that you should be treasure hunting along the Treasure Coast.
Locally, shoppers can find some really lovely items on the thrift store circuit. Nearly all thrift stores sell top-of-the-line brands — some stores just require more digging than others.
QUEENS OF CLEAN
Treasure Coast Hospice Thrift Boutique at Darwin Square has some of the highest-end items around. The goods are exquisitely displayed, in great condition and very well priced.
The store is spotless, the atmosphere is relaxed and the staff is friendly and helpful. Here shoppers can easily find the best designer brands arranged in special boutique aisles.
The other clothing aisles also have clean, well-made items vetted by assistant manager Yanira Rodriguez, who has volunteered there for a decade. “We’re very picky,” she says. “If it smells, has any mold, we don’t put it out. You have to treat the customer like you want to be treated.”
Store manager Marlaine Smith says she wouldn’t even step foot in a thrift store when she lived up north. She recalled going into thrift stores in upstate New York and being overwhelmed by must and mold. It made her want nothing to do with thrifting. “[I] started out in upstate New York,” Smith remembers. “I went to a Goodwill in Kingston. If there were books, I would buy one and leave.
“We like clean; we like organized. We are the queens of that.”
Vicki Shonce has been supporting TCH Thrift Boutique for many years, back when it was located “on St. Lucie West, by that little Walmart,” she says. “Yes, I’m a loyal customer. I come here regularly because they have better quality merchandise. This is my favorite one because it’s clean and organized.”
Smith says she’s attached to the mission of Treasure Coast Hospice and has been for the 22 years she’s volunteered. “All of the money that we make here goes to patient care; we are a nonprofit,” Smith says. TCH helps “to take the burden off of caregivers, even if they’re home. Someone from hospice can take care of the patient so the caregivers may spend time with the family versus caring for the patient. They can be home with their family, which is really important.”
Volunteers for thrift stores are essential, doing everything: accepting and sorting through donations; merchandising items; dealing with customers and sales; answering calls; dealing with unsold goods; and bookkeeping — all tasks necessary to keep a business afloat — plus the extra tasks associated with working for a nonprofit operation.
Treasure Coast Hospice marketing manager Maryellen Murphy addresses how the hospice’s boutique has been able to maintain such high-end inventory so consistently throughout the years.
“I think people are very generous,” she says. “Many have been touched by our care and they like to donate some very beautiful things, and our managers and volunteers have such a knack and they get very creative. The level of support from our community has been very generous, both in PSL and Martin County. We’ve had stores in both counties for many years.”
HELPING FUR BABIES
For those who want to bark up another tree, the Humane Society of St. Lucie County Thrift Store may be more to your liking. This lovely thrift store has a bounty of treasures all under one roof. Though a sign encouraging them to “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” greets shoppers, those who stop by can’t help but be lured in by the $1 rack with goodies just waiting to be given a new life.
If clothing isn’t what’s on your shopping list, then there are loads of other options: housewares, frames [for glasses, photos, even large-scale paintings], jewelry, shoes, bags, and belts [women’s and men’s], along with books, books-on-tape, records, CDs, DVDs and pet items of all types. It’s a whole lot of fun to look through the variety of goods, searching for the unusual or the necessary — whatever you may be in the market for or whatever may suit your whimsy. Either way, there’s a chance you may get lucky at the HSSLC Thrift Store.
Amy Pepe of Palm City shops at the HSSLC Thrift Store often. She says her reasoning is simple: “I love to thrift when the money goes to animals. I feel they share the profits the most honestly. This is not for profit, and I love my little fur babies.”
That’s exactly the type of feedback HSSLC executive director Glenn Camelio loves. He says the society will generate $90,000-$100,000 annually from Port St. Lucie thrift store sales and that goes directly toward the no-kill animal shelter.
What can’t be sold quickly is marked down, and then eventually given away to the needy — a common practice among thrift stores. Camelio says they “try to put out the best of what gets donated, and on the last Saturday of the month we do a 50 percent off sale. Everything is 50 percent off, the whole store.”
Goodwill is the gold standard when most people think of thrifting. Here in Port St. Lucie, there are three large Goodwill Stores and Donation Centers that are all easy to access for those who need to buy items that are cheap, serviceable and, if you’re lucky, that elusive deal of the decade.
The Goodwill at 1082 SW Gatlin Blvd. is quite large. Make that, huge. It offers everything from clothing to jewelry to housewares to furniture. There are part-time and full-time workers there to help with donations and purchases, large and small. There are aisles and aisles of merchandise, and some serious shoppers who come armed with everything from measuring tapes to bins for their purchases.
Goodwill is the place to uncover those rare bargain-basement finds [though less rare than you’d expect] of well-preserved cut glass, china, jewelry, designer clothing, furniture — items that real bargain hunters keep their eyes peeled for when they go thrifting.
Case in point is the Caputo family from Port St. Lucie. Mom, Dana, and dad, Keith, were lending a hand to their son, Andrew, who is about to move to Nebraska for law school. Andrew found a nice wooden table with chairs, along with some other furniture at Goodwill. He was especially proud that he purchased it on half-off day.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” said Andrew, the next day. “It seems they cycle through things pretty quickly. Yesterday, I got half off. This was $100, so I got it for $50. It definitely helps. I’m very excited; it should be a lot of fun, though a big change.” It certainly will be for the physicist turned law student, who said he’s seeking change.
Perhaps that’s why people like to go thrifting, it allows them to discover new things, to imagine the past lives of those items and to write a new story for their purchases. Thrifters get to enjoy this thrill of change without a whole lot of risk or expense. Speaking from experience, thrifting is an awful lot of fun. Here in Port St. Lucie the volunteers who work at the various establishments are especially gregarious and accommodating, which makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
One can also grab great bargains at St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store, the Salvation Army Family Store, Dogs & Cats Forever, Inc., the aptly named thrift store on SW Bayshore Boulevard, and the St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity PSL ReStore, which sells furniture, housewares and hardware goods, but no foldable items. And there are many more.
So, when in need of your next purchase, consider sampling the city’s thriving thrift scene. Whether you’re after bargains or adventure, you won’t be disappointed. Plus, it’s always nice to know your dollars are being put to good use when overcome with that initial flash of shopper’s guilt.
PORT ST. LUCIE THRIFT STORES
Treasure Coast Hospice Thrift Boutique
3235 SW Port St. Lucie Blvd., Suite 106, Darwin Square, 343.0100, www.treasurehealth.org
Goodwill Store & Donation Center
1082 SW Gatlin Blvd., 807.5510
Goodwill Store & Donation Center
1665 NW St. Lucie West Blvd., 336.7142
Goodwill Store & Donation Center
9086 South U.S. 1, 398.8448
Humane Society of St. Lucie County Thrift Store
2632 SW Port St. Lucie Blvd., 238.5631
St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Store
697 Biltmore Drive, 344.1341
Salvation Army Family Store
10011 South U.S. 1, 288.1471
Dogs & Cats Forever, Inc. Thrift Store
1762 SW Bayshore Blvd., 879.6002
St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity PSL ReStore
10185 South U.S. 1, 249.0192
Sept. 4, 2023