fb-pixelVintage chic, at just the right price - The Boston Globe Skip to main content

Vintage chic, at just the right price

The Second Glance thrift store in Gloucester is popular with bargain hunters such as Monica Grant and her brother Gerald Gilraine.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

On a brisk Wednesday morning, more than 40 customers were lined up outside the Second Glance thrift store in Gloucester, waiting for the door to open. Many had arrived half an hour early to nab a parking space and a prized spot at the front of the line.

Pam Denyse of Essex, one of the first customers inside, quickly scooped up a $35 wood chaise lounge for her patio.

“I’m a regular,” said Denyse. “I love it here. The staff has a designer’s eye and all proceeds go to feed people. What could be better?”

Second Glance is closed Monday and Tuesday. During that time, staff create themed displays of furniture and accessories and promote them on social media. When the shop opens on Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., customers pour in and scoop up vintage furniture along with fun accessories from lamps to tapestries.


All the merchandise is donated and the proceeds support The Open Door community food resource center that operates pantries in Gloucester and Ipswich.

“It is a fun place to shop,” said Barbara Kelly of Gloucester, who was excited to be on vacation and able to join the early birds. Alexis Raymond came up from Boston and waited in line because “of the great bargains.”

Call it vintage, boho, or granny chic — the market for secondhand furniture and accessories is hot.

Supply chain issues, inflation, environmental concerns, and a desire for nostalgia are driving more and more consumers to purchase used furniture and decor.

Jim Sanford, who works at the Second Glance thrift store in Gloucester, is seen in a wicker mirror as he arranges items on a table.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Consumer spending in the United States on secondhand furniture and home goods is expected to grow from about $17 billion in 2021 to nearly $24 billion in 2025, according to the data firm Statista.

Locally, retail stores are seeing strong demand for used goods this spring.


At Ramble Market in Waltham, owner Jon Ames specializes in selling to young professionals who want “unique” items.

“We have seen a growing base that just doesn’t want Ikea anymore,” Ames said. “Many of our customers are two-career families and they value their time. They are diligent shoppers. When they see something they like, they research it.”

“Product availability and timing is key in this market,” said Irene Dunn, who has owned Elite Repeat Furniture Consignment in Hanover for 22 years. “Younger customers see something and they want it now. They are used to ordering items online and having them delivered immediately. The supply chain issues are driving more customers to the secondhand market. Patio furniture has been especially hard to find new. I can’t keep patio furniture in stock.”

After more than two decades in the business, Dunn said she has “seen it all” as customers’ tastes change with each generation.

“Mid-century furniture is very much in demand right now. Orange is a very hot color,” noted Dunn. “Farm tables are also popular, but we can’t sell china cabinets. ... When I started, people wanted formal furniture, now the young buyers want a more casual style.”

But casual does not mean poor quality. “They are tired of throw-away furniture,” Dunn said. “They want something that is going to last, not fall apart in a couple years.”

A mid-century Lane Tower Suite walnut chest is an example of the popular style with customers at Ramble Market in Waltham.Jon Ames/Ramble Market

Prices at Elite Repeat start at $5 for decor and go up to $1,000 for some furniture, Dunn said. The store does not sell online, but customers can preview the inventory on the website and call for measurements.


“Measuring is very important,” Dunn said. “If they come with the right vehicle, they can pay, pick up, and go. If the purchase needs to be delivered, we can help them arrange for delivery.”

At Ramble Market in Waltham there is growing demand for “hand-knotted rugs, artwork, and mid-century furniture,” reported Ames. “For us the shopping environment is critical. We have an ever-changing curated selection of vintage furnishing with over 5,000 items in stock. We are dog-friendly and all our staff have a designer background — they are not furniture salesmen. They are there to help customers find, measure, and match complementary pieces.”

At Ramble Market the prices start at about $100 and go up from there, according to Ames.

Ames said his customers want style, quality, and value. “Older furniture is often better constructed — made of solid wood. It may have already lasted 30 years and will last another 30 years. Customers see value in quality.”

The desire for quality goes hand-in-hand with another priority of today’s secondhand shoppers: sustainability.

An Eames style lounge chair and ottoman by Plycraft circa 1980 is among the many designer pieces at Ramble Market. Jon Ames/Ramble Market

“We have more and more shoppers that are concerned about the environment,” said Susan Zwart, director of thrift operations at the nonprofit Second Glance store, where most furniture pieces are under $75 and accessories are priced under $10.

“They don’t want to buy things that will easily end up in landfills and they are increasingly aware of the carbon footprint of mass-produced items. Similar to the consciousness of fast fashion, younger buyers are rejecting cheap mass-produced fast furniture.”


Second Glance encourages customers to bring reusable bags and many of the regulars, like Linda Soliday of Gloucester, are happy to comply.

“It is good for the environment and when you bring your own bag, it is faster and easier to shop,” said Soliday with a knowing smile and large reusable bag on her shoulder.

Customers regularly line up outside the store on Wednesday mornings, ready to see what treasures await them.

“It is funny, we will have something in the store for weeks and it doesn’t sell, but if we move it into a themed display where customers can see how it works with other pieces, it will suddenly get scooped up,” Zwart said. “Farm tables and country furniture sell, but we don’t take big entertainment centers because they never sell.”

Beyond the thrill of the hunt, customers enjoy discovering what resonates with their own pasts.

“The last few years have been stressful,” said Julie LaFontaine, president and CEO of The Open Door, which operates Second Glance. ”There is a comfort in walking through a thrift store and seeing things that remind you of a kinder time.”

Linda Greenstein can be reached at greensteinlm@gmail.com.

A pink guitar is for sale at the Second Glance thrift shop in Gloucester. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
The Second Glance thrift store is popular with bargain hunters. A frog on a mushroom stand is $15.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff