Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Special Trip: The Goodwill in Stillwater, MN

I have to admit that there have been times when I considered scrapping the first "special trip" I attempted for Operation Sparkle. As discussed earlier, one of our 2011 features is documenting new thrift stores we check out. This has as much to do with widening our thrifting opportunities as it has to do with giving me an excuse to take day trips (and thrifting on family vacations).

That said, my fantasy for these trips included finding cute, little shops in backwoods towns, run by sweet, old, Lutheran ladies. I imagined these shops filled to the brim with amazing deals, all of which are dictated by color schemes, handwritten tags and bag sales.

This is not what I experienced for my first trip, mostly because we went to a Goodwill. My friend Molly grew up in Stillwater and has been telling me for months that we have to go check out the Goodwill there. Having a willing participant who had previous knowledge of what we were getting into, it seemed natural to check it out. So with Molly in tow, I traveled the 40 minutes northeast for our first special trip.

I wouldn't say that the results were exactly disastrous, but they were pretty humorous. I ended up with some pieces I simply could not turn away, but for a hefty price tag ($35 on four things!). I do take pleasure in the fact that they all meld into the same color scheme (though thrifting often yields a whole mishmash of random pieces, occasionally I will find that everything I get on one trip goes together)—black and white with a pop of maroon red from the crazy heels I wore on New Years.

New BCBG Generation Suede Pumps

It pains me still to look at these, but they are so cute.

Polka Dot Suit Jumper

Black and white polka dot jumper.

Black and White Cocktail Dress

Black and White Cocktail Dress (back)

Black and white cocktail dress. This piece set me back $9, but I ended up wearing it to my family's x-mas, so I suppose it is worth it. I just feel so classy and proper in it. I love the gathered waistband and the sleeve detail (plus, I am a sucker for button-up backs).

Velvet Overalls

Velvet Overalls (close-up)

Dressy velvet overalls. Are you kidding me!?

The whole experience was pretty ridiculous, even laughable. Instead of being in some old building downtown, or in a church basement, the Goodwill was in a brand new building in a new business district that also included a Lowe's. The staff was rather unfriendly (the woman checking Molly was incredibly rude to her, even though it took her 20 minutes to check out, after which we had to return as the woman overcharged her by $10. When we returned, the woman doing her refund, though nicer than the cashier, told her that she was going to get $800 for a Beatles White Album she just found (if she is in charge of pricing, this explains a lot).), a far cry from the sweet, old ladies I had been looking forward to making small talk with about the weather. The vintage Coach purses were barricaded in a glass case, though I could make out the outrageous pricing—$60! Despite the quality items I found, the whole experience felt more like shopping at a TJ Maxx than a thrift shop.

After our Stillwater experience (and a few other times I have poked my head into Goodwills around various towns), it seems clear that for some, Goodwill is a good thrifting option. As I found, there can be nice, quality merchandise stocking its racks at a fraction of what it would cost new. Still for me, Goodwill simply fails as an Operation Sparkle-worthy shop because it is so dang expensive. I do think, however, that not all was lost in experiencing this trip, because it gave me a better idea of what to be looking for for future special trips—that the backwoods, little old ladies and bag sales are really the sorts of treasures that I want to unearth.

Onward and upward!

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