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The Garment District’s By The Pound section reopens

The By The Pound section in The Garment District in Cambridge has reopened for the first time since the pandemic began.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

One of Boston’s thriftiest thrifting opportunities is back.

By The Pound, a section inside The Garment District in Cambridge where customers drop to their hands and knees to sift through mountains of clothing that they can purchase for $2 per pound, has reopened for the first time since the pandemic began.

The multi-story thrift store in The Port, which bills itself as “an alternative department store,” reinstated the By The Pound offering on July 24, but kept it quiet to avoid large crowds and keep from overwhelming the staff, said The Garment District’s president, Chris Cassel. The store announced the reopening in a newsletter on Aug. 11 and on its Facebook two days later.

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“We’re not looking to drive lots of people in the door,” said Cassel. “There wasn’t a big rush of people, because that’s not what we wanted.”

Though the needle-in-a-haystack-style hunt is the same, one thing is different in By The Pound: the longstanding $1 per pound special on Fridays has gone by the wayside, in the interest of keeping things on the calm side. Cassel encouraged masks (though they are not required for vaccinated customers) as well as shopping on weekdays or off-peak times to allow for proper distancing. There are plexiglass dividers at the cash registers, and a people counter to manage the masses, Cassel added.

“All through the pandemic, people have asked — calls and e-mails and posts on social media: When are you going to reopen it?” Cassel said. “After 16 months of being really cautious with By The Pound, we’ve decided that we felt it could be done safely.”

A selection of the clothes in The Garment District's By The Pound section.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

The 12,000-square-foot Garment District store, which reopened in June of last year after closing in March, also contains Boston Costume and its flagship used-clothes retail shop. The By The Pound portion of the business — which began in 1979 as Dollar-A-Pound, seven years before the Garment District proper opened its doors — makes up about 10 percent of total sales, Cassel said.

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The eclectic clothing in By The Pound is culled from business with charities, private individuals, and, occasionally, rejects from the retail portion of the store, Cassel said.

“Having supply was not a problem,” Cassel said of stocking By The Pound. “People have gone through their closets, and there was a lot of available clothes.”

Every Friday night, the staff at The Garment District collect all of the remaining clothes in By The Pound and send them away to be cut into rags. They then set up five 800-pound bales of clothing to release to the public in By The Pound throughout the week.

“There’s a lot of good in clothing recycling, and By The Pound is this little piece of it,” Cassel said.


Dana Gerber can be reached at dana.gerber@globe.com