Head for Palm Beach's Thrift Shops
Paulette Cooper, an inveterate consignment shopper who lives on Fire Island, N.Y. in the summer and Palm Beach County, FL, in the winter, loves to shop for designer items at a bargain.*
To Buy Trump items on Chump Change
By Judy Colbert
Wallis Simpson (1896-1986), Duchess of Windsor, is credited with saying, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Dozens of consignment and thrift shops located throughout Palm Beach County, FL, help those who aren’t too rich.
And, although most clothing consignment stores cater to those ranging from size 0 to 14, there are also shops that help with those who aren’t too thin. Specialty shops handle children’s, maternity, and men’s attire, and home furnishings.
Bargain Basement Prices
Items at Palm Beach County thrift shops are up to 70 percent off original prices, depending on their condition. Almost all shops have employees with years of retail experience. Or, they use professional appraisers to help them set prices. While you may pick up a steal of a deal, you probably won’t find something that’s incredibly undervalued.
Some shops are not-for-profit, so your purchases benefit their budget and charitable cause as well as your pocketbook. Others are commercial businesses. Both rely on constant turnover. So if you find something you like, buy it now. If you change your mind when you get home, you can sell it on eBay.
If truth be told, some people spend more than a few cents to save a lot of dough. Penny Troy, manager of the Charity Boutique consignment shop, says, “Ladies fly down from New York two or three times a year just to check out the stock.”
Clearance Sales and Credit Cards
Time your trip right. You might even find the stores have clearance sales to make room for seasonal merchandise, just as regular retail stores do. You can often use your credit card. Some stores also accept PayPal, debit cards, money orders and checks.
The Wizard, a monthly 16-to-24 page tabloid paper, carries ads and news about the consignment world. Pick it up at consignment shops or subscribe ($25 a year) by calling Marge Knudsen (561-386-1539). Knudsen estimates there are 50 consignment shops and dozens of thrift shops. She advises you to always call a store before you start driving: “They go in and out of business.”
Here is a sampling of stores that sell new (some with the original tags) or gently used items.
The Church Mouse, 378 South County Rd., Palm Beach (561-659-2154 or www.bbts.org/churchmouse.php) has been around for 36 years. It’s operated under the auspices of the Bethesda-By-The-Sea Episcopalian church. Jerry LoBianco, manager, says that since 1990, the thrift shop has raised $4.5 million for such local charities as the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Lung Association, YMCA, Hospice for Humanities and the St. George’s Soup Kitchen.
The Church Mouse is a thrift shop with great buys that also benefits many Palm Beach County charities.*
LoBianco’s shop carries clothing, house wares, antiques, accessories, furniture, and, particularly, electronics. “People are always upgrading,” he says. “We just had a TV in that was in beautiful condition. Most of our items are one of a kind. We had an antique mirror that sold for $8,000 that probably listed for $15,000. We have some beautiful chandeliers for $500 a piece.”
The Church Mouse offers a pick-up and delivery service for donations and purchases, within a 15-mile radius.
The Charity Boutique, 955 S. Congress Ave., Suite 112, Delray Commerce Center, Delray Beach, (561-483-0962) and the adjacent Haven Thrift Store (561-272-7636) benefits young men, ages 11 to 18, who are placed in the protective care of the State of Florida in Boca Raton. www.haven4kids.org
Troy prices the goods at about one-third to one-fourth of their original price. So an original $1,500 item might be priced at $500. On hand in November 2006 was a Lilly Pulitzer top priced at $15 that originally sold for four or five times that, an Albert Nippon and a Kasper suit, each for $25, and a pair of 14K hoop earrings for $25. The shop also had a Cassini jacket for $27 and a Dior jacket for $13.
At the Haven Thrift Store most items go for $5.You can also take home some perfectly good furniture and office supplies. Couture items that are slightly worn and things that don’t sell at the Charity Boutique often find their way into the thrift side. The bargains are almost inconceivable.
I Love Plus, 3121 Lake Worth Rd., Palm Beach, (561-642-1555) is the shop for women sizes 18 to 34. Owner Susan Toner carries Elisabeth, Jones NY, Style and Company, Caribbean Joe, Venezia (Lane Bryant), Quacker Factory, purses, shoes, accessories, and new trendy and designer handbags.
Plus-size ladies can find stylish, designer clothes in Palm Beach County's shops. One such shop is aptly named I Love Plus and features clothing, purses, shoes, handbags and accessories.*
Nigel’s Ladies Consignment, 3581 North Federal Hwy., Boca Raton (561-362-0234) carries clothing sizes from 2 to 24, and “not just high end,” says owner Nigel Priestly. “We do both.” He has clothing and accessories from $5 to $5,000 with a wide selection of evening gowns. “
Among the Louis Vuitton and Versace items recently for sale were two Judith Lieber handbags that went for $1,200 to $1,500 rather than their normal $5,000 and up price.
Kay's Designer Consignment, 1022 N. US Highway 1, Ormond Beach (386-615-8060) sells designer handbags from Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Escada, Gucci, Coach, Dooney & Bourke, Brighton, Brahmin, and Timmy Woods. She also carries designer shoes, European couture clothing, St. John knits, Mondi, signed costume and fine jewelry and accessories.
Other labels frequently in stock are Chico’s, Ann Taylor, Talbots, White House - Black Market, and Coldwater Creek. Kay’s also carries some plus size clothing, including Tommy Hilfiger and The Avenue.
A recent posting on the firm’s Web site noted that all red-slashed (discounted) Capri pants were $1 per pair and all red-slashed summer tops, sundresses, and Capri sets were 75 percent off.
If you can’t make it to the store, some items are listed on eBay. Be sure to let the store know what items are on your wish list. Sign up for the shop’s e-mail. Also check the Web site; recently we noticed a coupon special that entitled buyers to 20 percent off their entire purchase.
A Chloe lynx coat could be had in December at Designer Consignments Ltd II, 303 S. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton (561-416-8844) for $2,998; originally it might have been priced as high as $25,000. The store handles sizes 2-14. Labels include Christian Dior, Chanel, Dolce and Gabanna, Hermes, and Prada.
Marcia Moore says they recently had a Chanel suit that sold for $1,400 that most likely sold for three times that price. They also receive some consignments from France, Monaco, and New York.
Patty Cakes Boutique, 9091 North Military Trail, West Palm Beach (561-776-8543 or www.pattycakesconsignment.com) handles “children’s clothing – infants to size 12. It also sells accessories, maternity clothing (small to extra large), school uniforms, furniture, bicycles, books, car seats, strollers, toddler beds, swings, crib bedding, and toys, according to Crystal Earley, the shop’s owner. She says the boutique also carries Webkinz, the virtual pet.
Miami Beach Vintage is in Lake Worth not Miami Beach. It’s at 704 Lake Ave. (561/201-2785 or www.miamibeachvintage.com). It is also one of the few thrift stores that carries men’s items.
A vintage 1980 Guayabera shirt by El Hombre, size small, was listed at the shop’s online site for $20. A new Betsey Johnson party dress, size 2/4, recently was priced online at $98. The online store offers free shipping and handling for shipments to the United States and Canada.
Flexibility and Contacts
Consignment shopping is mostly a serendipitous event. Looking for something specific can lead to a lot of frustration.
Those who live in South Florida who seek something special should get to know the thrift shop owner or manager. Then when something you want arrives at the store, you might be called. Also, keep checking online or on eBay where some stores sell their “finds.”
What’s the draw of a upscale thrift shop experience where designer clothes are the norm? “If I’m going to spend $100, I want to look like a million,” says Paulette Cooper, an inveterate consignment shopper who lives on Fire Island, NY in the summer and Palm Beach in the winter.
“Finding a great buy is terrific,” Cooper acknowledges, “but it’s [just as] important to have fun.”
Judy Colbert is a native of Washington, D.C., and the author of "Virginia: Off the Beaten Path" and "Maryland and Delaware: Off the Beaten Path."
*Photos taken by Judy Colbert with rights transferred to SouthernTravelNews.com. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.