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Thrifting: The Secrets Dealers Don't Want You Knowing & Where To Go

Updated: Jul 1, 2019



Happy Friday folks! Hope your week has been treating you well. I've gotten a lot of requests on Instagram to share some insight on how I thrift. I've been pondering if this is something I want to share because it's how some of us make a living and if you know all our secrets we'll have to go back to our day jobs and none of us want to do that. So, I'm sharing this information with you to help you on your thrifting trips. I have confidence that you will still purchase goods from dealers and sellers, like myself, because we have great products at great prices and we've already done all the hard work for you.


What you are about to read is my opinion and advice based on years of experience that I've had at many thrift and secondhand stores across the east coast. I will also be ranking 11 thrift stores from Durham, NC in order to help you choose your favorites. (I only thrift for furniture and house hold accessories. This list does not reflect on any of the thrift stores as a whole, just in the area that I shop for. Almost all of these thrift stores offer way more than just furniture and accessories, but for today that's all we're focusing on. I encourage you to check them all out for yourself and create your own "Go-To" list.) The reason I thrift is because it makes me happy, makes my wallet happy, makes my shoppers happy and it saves the Earth! It's the best way to recycle and slow down production on everyday household furnishings and the energy to dispose of it via landfills. Most of the quality you find in a thrift store is way better than some of the popular pieces you see on social media. So thank you for thrifting and shopping with me and making the Earth a little greener.


Are you ready to thrift like a pro? If so, continue reading...



Plan Ahead

First up. Know in advance the stores you want to visit and their hours. Nothing sucks more than going to a store out of your way to realize they are closed on Mondays, or don't open until 11am. Before I started doing this for a living, I worked from 10-5:30. I would go to a store before work, one that opened at 8:30am, and yes I was the only one in there, but that was a good thing. Go to work. Get off. Head to another store that was on the way home, and if I had time on some days I would speed to another before they closed at 7. This would be my routine almost everyday. Addicted much? But, I would find the best stuff! So, before you go, plan ahead and make a route for yourself. This will allow you to take advantage of your time.


Make it a Habit

People often ask me how I get so lucky and when is the best time to go. Well, I ain't telling that secret, but it's because my ass is in the thrift store more than it is at home! It should be in the gym some of that time, but thrifting is a workout too! All that walking and lifting, right? I "stay shopping" - words my Mama always says to me. But, this is my job and how I make a living. If you haven't seen me in a thrift store for more than two days, call for help. I know that going often is asking for a lot in this busy life we all have, but even if it's on your way home from work, the grocery store or dropping your kids off at a party, run in and see what you can find! It's like playing the lotto. You'll never win if you don't play.


Don't Be Specific

Too many people go in looking for one thing and get so discouraged when they don't "find anything". Well it's because your brain was focusing on that 1970's orange Blenko ash tray that was your grand mother's that your old friend Karen from college broke from a party you had two years ago. Thanks Karen. You spent your entire time searching for that perfect piece which made you skim over all the other wonderful treasures. But, the dealers thank you, because you bought it on their Etsy page instead.


Don't Overpay

When you find something that you love but the price is sky high, research it. Pull up Google or Pinterest. I know you have your phone with you because you probably uploaded that you went thrifting in your insta-story (and when you do tag me.. okuurrr). Did you know that you can reverse image search in Pinterest and it most likely will pull up comparable items or active listings of the same thing you have in your hand? If it's higher than what it's going for online, put that shit down! Run as far away from that isle as you can.. Unless you are totally okay with paying what the ticket item is asking, then you do you. There are a lot of thrift stores, Durham Rescue Mission & Trosa I'm looking at you, that do their nice research and print information from online and stick it to the price to justify why they're asking $599.99 for a Mid Century chest of drawers that they got fo' free! But, someone will buy it and it usually is way less than what it's worth. Just be smart when spending more than $100 on a chair, $300 on a sofa, $150 on a handmade rug, $20 on accessories (including art and lamps) at a thrift store. Justify your purchase with yourself and if it's worth it, then take it home, but don't settle. There are other deals out there, maybe not that exact one of a kind piece, but something else is out there. Set your max amount before going into the store.


Check Your Items

This is so important, especially if you are planning on selling. You must check your pieces over carefully for any major flaws. Don't make the mistake of getting so full of joy because you finally found a vintage dresser that will go perfectly in your baby's room for a changing table and realize when you get it home that the leg is broken and the drawers are covered in mildew. Now, both of those are fixable, but a lot of times if the item even has an odor, stains, rip or bad repair I will pass, unless I'm having it lacquered or reupholstered. Ain't no body got time for that! Keep in mind that these items are secondhand and have been loved in their past life so there is likely to be flaws, just pick your battles carefully. One time my friend over at Emily & Co. found a snake... A SLIVERY SLIMY SNEAKY LITTLE SNAKE... inside a sofa at a thrift store! WTF.

PSA: test ALL lamps before buying.


I will be posting a series of blogs soon on what to look for before purchasing secondhand, how to care and clean your finds and how to style your thrift store finds - may turn this into a hands on workshop, not sure yet.


Come Prepared

Know your measurements; your cars, doorframes, rooms, etc. You never know when you're going to find that oversized sofa or dining table of your dreams, so you better have someone with a truck and a healthy back on speed dial. If you don't have an SUV by now and you thrift often, I don't know what you're waiting for! Trade in that coupe for a spacious four door that will fit all your friends and thrift store finds in. Don't be that friend that makes a passenger Uber home so you can get your chair in your car. Yes. I've seen this happen. Also, some stores only take cash or checks, so stop by an ATM before if necessary. Don't come prepared to haggle. Most of these stores have firm prices that will be included in store discounts, sales or reward programs, so just assume the price is what it says, unless otherwise marked. Do look out for price drops or sales, because the stores are known for that. It doesn't hurt to ask for a better price if you know the item has been there for a while or if you buy multiple items, but don't make it an annoying habit.


In Store Route

Creating your flow for each store is totally on you. I can not recommend a path because we all are looking for different things. I just know that my path is usually middle of the store, back of the store and finish at the front. I don't know why I do this, just a ritual I have made I guess. I'll only find good things if I stay on this path? Who knows. You'll get a hang of your own path, and it will be a beautiful one just for you. Wherever you are feeling luckiest. If I see another dealer in the store I book it for wherever they haven't gone to yet, but while staring them down and making sure they hadn't found the treasure of the day. If they do, I don't get discouraged. I just keep going. Each day is a new adventure.


Don't Give Up

If you are finding yourself striking out, it just isn't your time to shine yet. Your day will come and you'll soon forget about your losses. Now, I am about to rank some of my losses. Doesn't mean I completely stop going there, just not as much anymore. If you feel yourself not loving a store, there are usually three more around the corner. Just try them out and circle back to those you've missed in a while. Stuff is continuing rolling in. EVERYDAY.


Put Your Nose Down

Just because some of the upholstery pieces look 30 years out of date or look like they are on their last leg doesn't mean they all are like this. There are so many people buying, downsizing and getting rid of items every hour and most of these pieces are fine. Just needed them gone in a quickie, so the thrift store got them. You will need to do a sniff test on all drawers, rugs, chairs, and sofas, even upholstered headboards. Leather pieces are usually good. Same with wooden. Upholstery can get tricky, but just flip cushions, look for any signs of grossness and sit for comfort. If people aren't staring than you're not checking hard enough.

My entire living room; $2500 Bernhardt down sofa, mid century (original fabric) chairs came from a thrift store for less than $200. I made sure that I was okay with the pieces going into my car, storage unit and home before purchasing. I will talk more on what signs to look for when buying secondhand in a later post. But you can pretty much tell if a piece is good or not by just sniffing and looking under cushions and underneath (yeah flip that sofa onto it's back!) See if its hand tied or has springs and if it's clean or has 20 baby spider sacs waiting to hatch. If you can't trust yourself, then just buy it from a dealer who knows what to look for. They've probably already taken the measures to clean it the best they can too.


Now that we covered the basics, let's get to shopping local!


MY DURHAM, NC THRIFT STORE COUNTDOWN

You should be the judge yourself, I'm just pointing out my favorties in order.


11. Nearly New Shoppe

2424 Erwin Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Tues.-Thurs. 10am - 2pm, Mon. & Fri. 10am - 5pm, Sun. Closed


(Slide to see a glimpse of what is inside the store. I really wanted to purchase this basket but they were using it for a store display surface.)


This is an awesome thrift store for clothing, but not so much on home decor. Located in the back of a parking garage near Duke Hospital, it makes finding this store a little more difficult. It is a smaller scale thrift store that only accepts cash or checks, two of the things I rarely have on me. I have gotten extremely lucky here before with Karastan rugs for less than $25 though. I visited it yesterday and would've purchased a gold ice bucket, some pottery, a wool blanket and block print pillow cases, but I never carry cash! There is an atm/bank near by, but come prepared if you don't have much time. Hint Hint: There is a mark down system & don't forget to look under the racks. I learned about this place and tip from my good friend Ashlyn. (She's got a fantastic eye when thrifting too.) Both of our houses are filled with thrift store finds.


10. Goodwill on Roxboro Rd.

5267 N Roxboro St, Durham, NC 27712

Mon. - Fri. 9am - 8:30pm, Sat. 9am - 6pm, Sun. 12am - 6pm


(Slide to see what the store looks like. I did get a little lucky here.)


For me, this is on the way to my parent's house, so it's a no brainer not to pull in and see what they have, even when most time it's nothing. This store is so close to Trosa Thrift Store, which gets most of Northern Durham's donations, so if you're looking for furniture, it may be low. Their accessories are decent. I just wish that ALL Goodwills would stop writing on everything with a sharpie! Upside is that most Goodwills are now accepting credit cards!


9. Durham Rescue Mission Thrift on NC-55

3220 NC-55, Durham, NC 27713

Mon. - Sat. 8:00am - 7:30pm, Sun. Closed


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store.I really should've gotten those baskets.)


This is the smallest Durham Rescue Mission and the most reasonable priced out of the three. (I didn't include the large one on 70 because it is technically in Raleigh.) This is usually a little out of the way, but every time I go I find at least something good. I find that their accessories are a little more confined and easier to view than the other two. I did see a ZGallerie leather swivel chair yesterday for $99, which is a good deal, but usually their furniture isn't anything special.


8. Durham Rescue Mission on Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd.

3900 Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham, NC 27707

Mon. - Sat. 8am - 8:30pm, Sun. Closed


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. Those caned french chairs were nice.)


I have a love/hate relationship with this place. It was one of the first thrift stores I visited in the triangle when I was in high school. It used to be sooo good for what I was looking for. Great layout, great prices, great pieces, but now I'm just kind of expecting high prices for stuff that isn't in the best shape. When something is in good condition it's way overpriced for a thrift store. However, they do sales and have an awesome reward system that made my entire purchase yesterday for free! And who doesn't love free. So, I'll continue to give them chances.


7. Goodwill on Garrett Rd.

4318 Garrett Rd, Durham, NC 27707

Mon. - Fri. 9am - 8:30pm, Sat. 9am - 6pm, Sun. Closed


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. Nothing for me today.)


Again, my love for Goodwills over the years has diminished. I really only expect to find smaller accessories, if anything. BUT, once in a while this Goodwill will have some killer pieces for not so much money. This location is also hunting grounds for dealers, so good luck finding anything.


6. Everything But Grannies Panties

2926 Guess Rd, Durham, NC 27705

Mon. - Fri. 10:30am - 5:30pm, Sat. 10am - 5pm, Sun. Closed


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. Good pieces in right now.)


It's all in the name! This place is located in a large old house on Guess Rd. and looks like a scrap yard when pulling in. If your grandmother's attic could be a house, it'd be this place. Loaded with unique pieces both old and newer you never know what you'll find. This use to be my favorite stomping grounds, but over the last year I've had a hard time getting there and when I do, nothing. It'll be typical for you to go and notice that a section or room or backyard isn't open, but packed with tempting items. Here, it's just the name of the game. The store also has a second location called Grannies Goodies but isn't open nearly enough to be considered for this list. When it is open definitely go! It's usually the best of the best, and themed. Prices are usually good too. The staff is nice.


5. Scrap Exchange

2050 Chapel Hill Rd, Durham, NC 27707

Sun. - Fri. 11am - 7pm, Sat. 10am - 7pm


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. It's an artist's heaven.)


I know that this is technically more of a supply store, usually for scrap fabrics, wood, and anything you're ever looking for to make art or your child's project with, but you must at least go three times before giving it the chop. The first time I went was when I was high on cold medicine, with a 103 degree temperature. I had no business there and walked in like I was tripping on mushrooms. There is all types of salvaged items there, from bottle lids to bicycle tires. I had no clue what I was walking into. I found nothing and was going to never return. But, a week later, I was back to my normal self and tried it again. Thankfully, I did. There is a whole hallway of "Affordable Art" and really the reason I go. I have found some of my nudes and watercolors that are in my bathroom, unframed for less than a $1 here. (They sell cheap frames next door at their Thrift Store.) Their fabrics are amazing and cheap. Best selection in Durham. There's also an awesome art community there where you can sign up for workshops, birthday parties, field trips and even display your art in their gallery.


4. Pennies for Change

2715 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707

Mon. - Sat. 10am - 5pm, Sun. 12pm - 5pm


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. I love that trunk!)


I don't go here enough! It is the smallest of the thrift stores but so worth it! They have great donors and it's an amazing cause. The proceeds go to Durham's Crisis Response Center's programs and services; helping victims of domestic violence. The prices are always outstanding, amazing staff and great pieces. Mostly clothing, but a great selection of household items. They offer a rewards program and delivery.


3. Habitat for Humanity Restore

5501 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd, Durham, NC 27707

Mon. - Fri. 10am - 6pm, Sat. 9am - 5pm


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. I wanted that chandelier to spray paint it black for above my bed, but didn't get it. $15! Crazy deal.)


I used to sleep on this store, now I make it a go to for furniture. I really love the selection, most days. They also offer discounts through color coded markdowns. It's rare that I don't find something that I love here. Prices are usually good. Usually. They are a little more selective on what they sell, unlike some thrift stores and have great volunteers who offer assistance the best that they can. THEY ARE DOG FRIENDLY!! My dog loves riding with me to thrift stores and is welcomed every time, which makes me so happy. And fun fact, they now accept returns on purchases!


2. Trosa Thrift Store

3500 N Roxboro St, Durham, NC 27704

Tues. - Sat. 10am - 7pm, Sun. 12pm - 6pm, Mon. Closed


Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. I want everything usually. But I enjoy sharing great pieces on my stories so that you guys can have a chance to grab them up! I can't foster everything.)


My home away from home. I used to be known there as the rug guy, but then the guy who called me that graduated from the program and left. This is an incredible organization that helps addicts get back on their feet, drug free. The workers there are all in there bettering their lives and that's something to go and support. It used to be an old Wal-mart, if that tells you how big it is! The biggest selection in town, probably the state. They have everything and get a good handful of great items everyday. They periodically offer discounts and sales and will also offer delivery. I'm keeping my secrets for this place. You'll just have to see on my insta-story.

(This is the place where my sofa and chairs came from!)

PSA: sometimes they close for graduations, so be sure they are open before you go out of your way.


1. Scrap Thrift

2020 Chapel Hill Rd #31, Durham, NC 27707

Sun. - Fri. 11pm - 7pm, Sat. 10am - 7pm


(Slide to see a glimpse inside of the store. I should have gotten that bust.)


ALL HAIL SCRAP THRIFT! Now, this may not be your cup of tea, but that's fine. They have the most unique items rolling out of their back room every hour that it's crazy. Their prices are generally good and also mark down every few weeks. They have the best rewards program out there, resulting in me getting a lot of stuff for even cheaper! Their selection of books is to die for. Their art is good, but it's their accessories that take the cake. The furniture doesn't come in as often but you'll be able to find a few pieces you may like there; i.e. coffee tables, chair, side tables. I often go at least once a day, sometimes twice. The volunteers there are the best in the entire county & it's DOG FRIENDLY!! Again, my secrets are safe with me, but do give this place at least three tries before knocking it. This organization is the greenest and I love that.


So, now that I listed my go-to's.. are there any that you've already tried? Greatest finds? Any that you can't wait to check out? Sound off - I want to hear lists and stories below in the comments!

As always thank you for joining me and reading! This is going to be such a fun series of blogs. Should I offer a hands on workshop on styling?


See you in the thrift,


Cameron