New River Valley: The Thrift Capital of Virginia

Blacksburg has never been an epicenter for fashion, and it probably never will be. Fashion designers will never hold their runways on the Drillfield (even though it would be pretty cool). Fashion is not oozing in between the cracks of Hokie Stone, but that doesn’t deter the budding thrift culture that is becoming prominent here.

With a college town overflowing with poor 20-somethings, no one wants to go out and buy a $50 Ralph Lauren polo when Goodwill has that $3.59 deal. Thrifting no longer carries this inferior, dowdy stigma; it is now posh to wear the clothing belonging to old people and (probably) dead people!

The ranking of a good thrift store depends on three crucial factors: the price, the flow/supply of new merchandise and the uniqueness/quality of the garment. The price should be reasonable based off the wear and style of the garment. Each store should have a steady rotation so that the same merchandise isn’t collecting dust and clutter on each rack. Finally, the garments should be unconventional and quirky, differentiating themselves from anything you have ever seen brand new in a department store — a once-in-a-lifetime thrift miracle.

But where is the thrift Mecca for all thrift seekers?

Blacksburg

Goodwill (Patrick Henry Drive)

Price: 4.5/5

Flow: 4/5

Uniqueness: 4.5/5

I feel slightly biased because I constantly go to this one (perks of living next to a thrift store). With any Goodwill, you can’t beat the prices — hands down, your best bargain. The most expensive thing I ever bought there was a leather trench coat for $10.

Aside from its insanely low prices, the circulation of clothing is nonstop. Every time I walk in, there is a plethora of new clothing to explore and fondle. The store’s items constantly surprise and excite me, ranging from a vintage wedding gown and a velvet dress to a leather trench coat and a gray plaid suit.

Don’t you fret, gentlemen: The men’s section is slowly starting to get bigger and more diverse. I never leave empty-handed.

YMCA thrift store

Price: 4/5

Flow: 3/5

Uniqueness: 3.5/5

Going to the YMCA thrift store is like going on a Tinder date. The first couple times you go out are dreadful and you threaten yourself with a life of celibacy if you have one more bad encounter. All of a sudden, you have a great date — the most magical of your life. No other date really trumps it, but you keep going out on crummy dinner dates to hold onto that dream of another “great.”

The price at the YMCA is cheap, especially for books. However, if you are looking for something that isn’t Mickey Mouse coffee mugs and glass fruit bowls, I would suggest going somewhere else. The same purple taffeta dress still hangs in the back from when I first gazed upon its ugliness two years ago.

Most of the stuff I have bought there, especially the shoes, had fallen apart after 10 minutes of walking to Wallace Hall. However, if the planets are aligned perfectly, and the weather is sunny yet cool with no humidity, you will find the perfect thrift gem. Mine was a pair of white heeled boots, and that was my great Tinder date. Now, I just keep going back, waiting for (another) perfect mate.

Christiansburg

Goodwill (Pepper’s Ferry)

Price: 4.5/5

Flow: 4/5

Uniqueness: 3.5/5

Like I said, you can’t beat these Goodwill steals. The variety and flow is pretty good, and there is a lot of variety (almost too much). Even though the quantity is there and plentiful, it doesn’t reflect on the quality of the pieces.

If you are looking for some basics, like mom jeans, band shirts and button-downs, this is your one-stop shop. On the other hand, if you are like me, and crave something obscure and almost hideous, I would travel elsewhere.

It is a solid store, but is there anything special? Ehhh, maybe someday (The Magic Conch has spoken).

Nicky’s Resale Fashions

Price: 3/5

Flow: 3.5/5

Uniqueness: 4.5/5

I love a great boutique as much as any hipster white girl, maybe even more if it is a thrift boutique store. A hidden gem resting between Blacksburg and Christiansburg, Nicky’s offers interesting pieces that are not only second hand, but also authentically vintage. From a pink leather jacket resting in the window, to the atmosphere that reminds you of your hoarder great-grandmother’s duplex at Christmastime, Nicky’s doesn’t lack in personality.

Since it is a vintage boutique, the prices will be not as economic as what you could get at Goodwill, and that affects the flow of what comes in and out of the store. Are some of the garments worth that price? Yes! Do people in a college town with little money want to pay a lot of money? Not really. Sometimes, when the find is so phenomenal, price becomes obsolete.

 

A cart of clothes at the Goodwill located on Patrick Henry Drive in Blacksburg, Virginia. Photo illustration by Rachel Kiser

Roanoke

2nd Helpings Shop

Price: 4/5

Flow: 4/5

Uniqueness: 4.5/5

I love this store, period. Hidden within a cute coffee shop in Roanoke, 2nd Helpings reigns queen of all thrift stores in Roanoke.

Contrary to Goodwill, it prices items with a sticker system with a key that conveys the prices and sale of each garment. The place is not only massive, but it is constantly filling in more every time I go in. The garment style not only is Gucci Grandma, but high fashion homeless affordable vintage.

One of my best thrift finds came from this store: a silk kimono for $18. Whenever I visit, I feel like I have died and gone to thrifted heaven. Trust me guys, it’s worth the 45-minute drive.

Every thrift store carries a certain quality that makes it different, whether that be the missing tiles at the Goodwill Christiansburg, the grouchy cashier at Goodwill PHD or the smell of moth balls at the YMCA. Each store feels like a member of my family: I love them all, but I naturally have a favorite. Based on my ranking system, the Goodwill Patrick Henry reigns superior in thrift stores, dominating every category and depleting my bank account.

So, on your next thrift adventure, go a little out of your comfort zone: Take that highway exit, visit that sketchy thrift store, because you never know if it will be the thrift miracle of your life.

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