Hermes scarves for five bucks. Two new-with-tags La-Z-Boy leather recliners for $100 apiece. Cole-Haan loafers for a ten-spot. A Fabergé egg for $20. Urban shopping myths? Nope — they’re actual thrift shop finds, sleuthed out on Cape Cod by self-described “Queen of Thrift” Judy Lamson of West Barnstable. (OK, so we lied about the egg!) A former flight attendant, Lamson has thrift-shopped all over the world. Now the Cape is her happy hunting grounds. It takes patience, and the willingness to paw through lots of junk, to find that designer gem, she says: “It’s all about the thrill of the hunt.” In this age of Kondo-ing, when everyone is donating everything that doesn’t spark joy, there’s never been a better time to dip a toe into the world of thrifting.
Just ask Ute-Barbara Gardner. She’s been selling vintage clothing at Plush & Plunder, her Hyannis shop, for 38 years, so she has some perspective. Resale shopping “is really growing now,” she says. “It’s catching on among all kinds of people.” It’s all about the joy of owning one-of-a-kind items, and saving them from the landfill, she notes. Speaking of landfills, you can get stuff entirely free, and leave items you no longer use, at the swap shops at local dumps (Nantucket’s “Madaket Mall” is the most famous) if you have a transfer station sticker.
Why the bounty of bargains over the bridge? Consider the demographic: Many Cape residents are older and downsizing. Plus, they buy oodles of stuff for their grandkids, and then the kids outgrow it. Ergo, a Little Tikes cozy coupe (these things never die) at the thrift store for a couple of bucks. Nearly every church has a thrift shop, as do many charities, so you can bargain shop and help a good cause at the same time.
Here’s a sampling (not a complete list — there are more than 50). A couple of tips: Check before you go; most shops are closed on Sundays, and hours may be limited. And if you want to narrow down your search, hone in on Route 28; lots of resale shops there. If you’re keen to unearth designer finds, “Know your labels,” Lamson says. “If you like it, Google it on your phone to see what the brand is all about.” That unfamiliar name could be a coveted European brand.
Christ the King Parish Thrift Shop
It’s like the best suburban yard sale ever, with merchandise displayed on two floors of a house, in a garage, in a tent — and on the driveway. Fans of “Flea Market Flip” will find lots of DIY inspo — here a candelabra, there an old chair, awaiting some TLC and a coat of bright paint. Clothing for men, women, and kids, housewares, jewelry, jigsaw puzzles, you name it, it’s probably here. On our last visit, we snapped up a colorful Alberto Makali skirt and an Eileen Fisher top, barely worn, for 14 bucks apiece. Past forays have yielded a chic furry vest for our favorite toddler (she looks like a tiny Cher!) for a mere $2, and tot-size Timberland boots (awww!) for $5. Proceeds benefit the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
4463 Route 28, Cotuit; www.christthekingparish.com/thrift-shop.
Good for: Housewares, including stuff with the tags still attached. If you’re looking to outfit a first apartment, this is the place to grab coffee mugs, slotted spoons, and so on.
Coolest find: Gotta be the baby boots. Tip: Head to the tucked-away “boutique” (enter through the garage) to find the best-quality stuff — you might leave with an on-trend outfit for under $30.
Cape Abilities Thrift Shop
This is a great rainy-day stop — it’s open seven days a week, except in January-February. Big (7,500 square feet), clean, and well lit, this A-frame building is a go-to zone for furniture, including painted end tables with jazzy knobs for $35. Delivery can be arranged; profits benefit programs for the disabled.
316 Route 28, West Yarmouth; www.capeabilities.org.
Good for: Accent furniture, Cape-themed posters from the now-closed Kennedy Gallery in Provincetown ($20 unframed).
Coolest find: A lipstick-red, mid-century Modern-style couch and chairs.
Wicked Thrift — the Fashion Revolution
This nine-year-old shop doesn’t take itself too seriously — a mannequin is seated at a piano near the entrance, and hangtags have cheeky descriptions. (“Marie Antoinette” reads the tag on an over-the-top party frock.) It’s all about funky finds, like men’s leather pants, hippie-chick maxi skirts, and chef’s pants in eye-popping prints. (An outlier: A pair of preppy patchwork men’s shorts from Murray’s Toggery in Nantucket.) Snooty labels are in short supply, but there’s attention-getting garb aplenty.
533 Route 28, West Yarmouth; www.wickedthrift.com.
Good for: Prom and party dresses, anything with sequins, sparkles, and tulle, in a rainbow of colors.
Coolest find: A light-up, beaded bra top that wouldn’t be out of place at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.
Do you dream in Lilly Pulitzer lime-and-fuchsia? Welcome to your new favorite place to shop. During resort wear season, it’s all about punchy prints and bodacious blooms, accented with a bit of soutache piping. Located in an old sea captain’s house, this upscale consignment shop is set up like a boutique, with six rooms of clothing, shoes, and accessories in sizes from 0 to 24. They even host trunk shows. Owner Beth Pedicini, formerly a clothing rep, also sells some new pieces consigned by local boutiques and designers. Merchandise is charmingly presented (a pyramid of colorful capes!) and invites browsing.
1705 Main St./Route 28, West Harwich; www.capewhimsy.com.
Good for: Prepster garb for women.
Coolest finds: Colorful tops ($28) by Brit label Boden; Paige denim jeans, $10.
Wilma’s Eclectic Finds
There’s a whole lotta style crammed into this tiny shop. Photos of Audrey Hepburn adorn one wall; she may be the patron saint of Wilma’s. Fanciful displays include a mannequin covered in pearls. “We sell tons of jewelry and pearls,” a salesclerk told us. We didn’t see many fancy designer names on our visits, but the prices were right — $10.95 for a striped Talbot’s cardi that sold for $100-plus a season or two ago.
616 Route 28, West Yarmouth; 508-778-0123.
Good for: Fun accent pieces for women; seaside-themed home décor.
Coolest find: A nearly new Nic & Zoe graphic print skirt for $22.99.
At Home Again Fine Consignments and In My Travels
Home furnishings and accessories are the draw here, with lots of painted, cottage-style pieces and nautical themes. Items get automatically marked down, like the late, lamented Filene’s Basement. Prices weren’t super-low, but then again, there were plenty of “Sold” stickers on big-ticket pieces like dining tables. This one is a two-fer: Set behind the home store is “In My Travels,” a shop dealing in men’s and women’s “revisited” fine clothing. We saw designer names on every rack, mingled with Lilly and J. Crew, including a DVF wrap dress, Tory Burch frocks, and a striped tee by Joie. A few heavily discounted pieces hang on a rack outside.
1705 Main St./Route 28, Chatham; www.athomeagainchatham.com.
Good for: Upscale beach house furniture; designer clothing for women.
Coolest find: A peplum top by fashionista fave Alice + Olivia for $40.
Call it the Macy’s of Cape consignment shopping. So. Much. Stuff. They get in 2,000-plus new arrivals each week, they say. On the right side of their East Harwich store, furniture is set up in vignettes; to the left is rack after rack of women’s clothing, lightly used and in excellent condition. Much of the labels are in the mid-range — your Calvin Klein, your Eileen Fisher, your J’s (Crew and Jill), but look closely: We found a Giorgio Armani coat on the sale rack for around $30, and a groovy Desigual skirt for $23. And there’s this: They’ll give you 10 percent of every purchase in credit bucks to use on a future visit.
175 Route 137, East Harwich; also at 220 Route 6A, Brewster; www.consigncapecod.com.
Good for: Women’s basics and accessories.
Coolest find: A Just Cavalli top in a super-cool print for $30.
Second Glance Thrift Shop
On a recent Wednesday afternoon in June, this place was full of shoppers — how can you say no to that $10 silk scarf, when the proceeds will benefit the Family Pantry of Cape Cod? Things are super-cheap here — $8 seems like the most popular price point. Stock includes men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, plus a smattering of furniture and home goods. Labels vary wildly, from Old Navy to Brooks Brothers, grouped by category, size, and color. (Upscale items are featured in the “Designer Corner.”) Some items are bordering on “vintage” — we noticed a young, hipster-ish guy trying on a pile of short-sleeved “grandpa” shirts.
265 Main St., West Harwich; www.thefamilypantry.com.
Good for: Men’s clothing; basics.
Coolest find: Graphic print silk scarf from Talbot’s, $10.
Plush & Plunder
“I buy what I love!” says owner Ute-Barbara Gardner. Apparently, she loves hats — “I have thousands of them,” she says — and they fill every inch of ceiling space. Stepping into this crazy-crammed shop is like entering the costume department of a Broadway show. Here, a Tyrolean dress, there, a row of authentic Scottish tartan kilts, plus Victorian christening gowns, opera gloves, LPs . . . not to mention Gardner’s favorite piece, a tiny tree, almost hidden in the window display. This isn’t just a store — it’s a sensory experience.
605 Main St., Hyannis; www.plush
Good for: Hats, cowboy boots for men and women.
Coolest find: Brown leather cowboy boots with gold trim, very Shania Twain, $69.
Cape Cod Hospital Thrift Shop
Count on yard sale prices here — women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing is priced to sell, with all proceeds going to Cape Cod Hospital. Labels lean toward the conservative side; think Coldwater Creek and Land’s End, with some higher-end merchandise mixed in. “I will never pay full price for a Talbot’s cardi again!” said one shopper, her arms full of them. The housewares side of the store is the best bit, in our view — we found linens, rugs, and glassware galore, great for adding some cheap chic to a first home, or a Cape Cod beach house.
690 Main St., Hyannis; 508-775-3031.
Good for: Table linens, glassware.
Coolest find: A Sara Campbell striped top for $8.
Diane Bair and Pamela Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.