East Bay Unwrapped: Alameda Thriftin’
Welcome to the mid twentieth century in beautiful Alameda!
If you were swept out to sea, on what kind of island would you hope to seek refuge? A mysterious, tropical island filled with your hot travelmates, like in Lost? Gilligan’s Island? This crazy-ass cluster of islands for rich people? Well, my ideal sanctuary would be the Island of Alameda; a land replete with second-hand treasures from eras past.
The best thing about Alameda is that, aesthetically, it hasn’t changed much since 1955. The Alameda Theatre and Cineplex’s glory hasn’t faded one bit, and it feels like the kind of place where you can get a milkshake just around the corner. Like Pleasantville. But the best part about Alameda is its volume of thrift and second-hand stores and their proximity to each other. Don’t bother with the many overpriced antique shops along the way. Check out these places instead:
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Goodwill: This Goodwill has all of the typical Goodwill characteristics: color-coded tags on the clothing, friendly staff, and supreme organization. The clothes are more on the contemporary side of the style scale, but you can certainly find some ’80s throwbacks and miscellaneous knitted goods. During my most recent trip, I scored a pink and green ’70s style sweater without any tags sewn into it. The funny proportions suggested that this sweater was handmade with love, so I spent the $5 on it that it deserved. However, I must advise you that this Goodwill is about a quarter of the size of a normal Goodwill. My only criticism is that some of the items are overpriced. Like, $4 for a plain white tee shirt? Ish don’t think so.
Rocket Reuse: This is, by far, the coolest thrift store on the entire island. As I learned from the super friendly owner whose name I didn’t catch, this store used to be called “Blue Rectangle” for absolutely no reason. Then they built a giant rocket, stuck it in the middle of the store, and the Blue Rectangle entered its renaissance period. Rocket Reuse specializes in second-hand media. For such a small space, there is a staggering amount of impeccably organized books, CDs, vinyl, DVDs, and VHS tapes. Yes, VHS tapes. I still get excited every time I see Ren and Stimpy on VHS (which was in stock). Used vinyl was a reasonable $3 to $4, and everything was in good condition. There’s even a small selection of vintage garments (mostly for women) that are in tip top shape and seem to have been hand-picked, but they’re expensive by thrift standards ($20 on average per garment). And then there’s the rocket bin, wherein each item costs $1.82. With tax, I’m assuming that comes out to $2. But how can you put a price on such classics as Corky Romano and Prom Night? Well, there’s a reason they’re in the rocket bin to begin with.
Salvation Army: Holy crap. This place is utterly ginormous. It’s the kind of thrift store that you need to be okay with spending an hour or more of your time in. It’s got clothes, furniture, clothes, kitchenware, clothes, shoes, and, oh, did I mention clothes? Seriously, there are racks upon racks of clothes, organized by garment type. Beyond that, it’s a free-for-all. I also recommend peeping the accessory section. I recall there being an exceptional selection of bags and purses. You should get there early as early as possible, because even though the interior is the size of a warehouse, it gets packed with pushy people by noon. Oh, but not on Sundays, because they’re closed. I learned that the hard way.
St. Vincent de Paul: Dudes, if you’ve ever been to this place, then you can imagine how disappointed I was when I stopped by last weekend, prepared to squander my dollars away, and saw a sign on the door that read, “Closed for renovation.” Apparently, they’re in the process of transforming it into a “Redux Gallery,” where they will sell art and other things made out of reclaimed materials. What is this, Berkeley? Whatever. Anyway, the old SVDP was great for home goods and glassware. I can’t tell you how many candy dishes and serving plates I’ve snagged from them. They also have a ton of furniture, much of which is “gently used.” Every once in a while you can find an awesome vintage liquor cabinet that you love but just can’t justify purchasing. St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, I hope you make a speedy recovery and share your dusty bounty with us once again.
2319 Lincoln Ave.
13555 Park Street
1915 Park St.
St. Vincent de Paul
2315 Lincoln Ave.