Thrift & Consignment: A bargain by any other name…

Over the years I have heard rumor about thrift stores in high end ski resort areas that are THE BEST! Discounts on lightly used gear and clothing, a treasure trove of great finds. In the past I have never taken the time to uncover these caches of castoffs. This year I chose to dig deeper into what has become a cult like following searching for the deal.

My thrift/pawn/second-hand/consignment curiosity began years ago growing up in Hardin, Montana. Back then I didn’t differentiate between retail and second hand. The stores kind of blended into my memory. My childhood bedroom set, which I sit at every morning at the lake came from Pattyn’s Second Hand Store in Hardin. Dad and Mr. Pattyn were shooting the bull in the front of the store and I had time to wander around the back. I saw this lovely fancy French Provincial dresser and chest—a little forlorn and neglected—and when my dad was done visiting, I dragged him to the back of the store. The set was over $100 used. That was back in the 60s and if you calculate it out, it was about $800 in today’s dollars.

My dad bought it for me. I’m sure he didn’t pay $100, since wheeling and dealing was the name of the game back then. I painted it and used this antiquing finish to make it look even older than it was. It’s still a beautiful piece of furniture. We bought our cowboy boots at Lammer’s Trading Post, Gayl Lammers and my dad dickering over the price until I walked out with a new pair. It was the way small town Montana did business back in the olden days.

So visiting second hand stores might be in my blood. And maybe in my friends’ blood, too.

In Driggs, Idaho, Bill and his first roommate Jeff and I went to the See N Save to check out the bargains. The See N Save had a few choice items, but if I recall, the only thing we walked out with was a book that Jeff bought. Since Covid, the See N Save inventory declined, and this year we stopped at The Second Act, a new thrift store in Victor, Idaho. I saw a picture of tango dancers in the window that Bill bought for $25. The frame alone was worth it. After a little Windex and elbow grease, it looked great hanging in the house.

At Heavenly Valley South Lake Tahoe the Goodwill is a fountain for bargains. The time we stopped there Tom had taken an epic crash at Homewood so we were in the market for walkers and crutches. They had LOTS of both, for very cheap–$5-15.

I wanted to see 25th Street in Ogden, UT, a historic and preserved street that at one iteration was a Japan Town. I stopped in at The Gift Shop, a pawn and secondhand store now owned by Rick Vanleeuwen who had begun working at the store back in the early 70s. The store has been in the same location since the 40s. It was very cool, and Rick accepted my half price offer on a turquoise and silver bolo tie. It may only mean he doubled the price on everything, but it paid for the 45 minutes we spent talking history of Ogden.

The thrift stores I really wanted to see were the one at the hoity toity resorts. I had heard that the thrift shops at these resorts were a goldmine of high end seconds. At Jackson Hole Haley and I stopped at Headwall Sports. I got a very stylish Head mid-layer knit sweater for $20.

In Steamboat Springs the Skijourn Sisters stopped at Déjà vu Boutique where I got a silk scarf for $5, and Peggy bought a Dale of Norway sweater for $25. Don’t worry. Steamboat got a chunk of my cash on a pair of boots for ten times that amount. The towns aren’t going to starve because of our thrift shopping.

My teenaged ski partner Kaia and I had already left Avon/Beaver Creek which has a reputedly very fine high end thrift shop. But we stopped at Edwards at The Thrifty Shop where I bought a Brighton belt for $15, and the ugly/cool ski sweater (Talbots) for $25. I have the sense Kaia hadn’t spent much time in thrift shops, so I may have planted a seed. Or she thinks I am a poverty-stricken widow lady.

I was on a roll. My next stop was Aspen. I had heard great stories about their thrift shops.  The one with the best reputation is the Aspen Thrift shop, but their hours are squirrely, so I never got there (I was skiing, after all…) so instead I went to the Little Bird consignment shop. OMG, I wonder if they call it Little Bird because all the sizes were teeny tiny??? And speaking of that, I have never ever seen so many skinny women as are in Aspen. Little Bird was an experience for a country bumpkin like me. One of the only brands I recognized was Chanel. The prices were not thrifty, and that’s maybe the difference between thrift and consignment. There were many items in the thousands of dollars. High hundreds was normal. It didn’t matter too much to me, nothing would have fit anyway. But it was fun touching the stuff.

On my way out of Aspen I stopped at Basalt where on the main drag there’s Heirlooms that had a nice selection of used clothes, some furniture, but what caught my eye was beaded Native jewelry. Not used but new, but very nicely done and obviously hand made.

Finally on the way out of the Roaring Fork valley I stopped at the Ragged Mountain Sports store in Carbondale. The place was filled with skis, boots, jackets, pants and hiking and climbing gear. What I really liked was the wall mural—stylized mountains, in the vein of Alchemy of Ride ( so cool. I liked the vibe of this place and would definitely return if I were in the market for more gear…but I definitely am not looking for more.

My latest stop wasn’t at a high-end toney shop but the Humane Society Thrift Store in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I was back to “normal” thrift stores. Lots of locals were in, buying sweaters, pots & pans, household goods.

Stores that don’t fall into thrift or consignment, or pawn for that matter are the family-owned ranch wear stores that are currently thriving in these tourist towns. In Steamboat it’s F.M. Light’s. EVERYONE goes there, and I think they may be putting a branch store right at the Steamboat gondola.

In Pagosa it’s Goodman’s. I bought a couple Christmas gifts at Goodmans—a bolo tie and a bracelet, both made of horsehair and a pleasant surprise was they were made in Montana, my home state.

The new farm stores that I like to hit are the Big R/Shiptons, Murdocks (kinda falls between new farm store and old family-owned ranch store). In the Midwest there’s Mills Fleet Farm.

The common thread is probably we are searching for that store that takes us back to boots and buckles, feed buckets and the smell of leather when you walk in the door. When we thought life was simpler.

But maybe life wasn’t any simpler back then, but the difference was that I didn’t have to pay out of my pocket, but had a dad who would buy me a secondhand bedroom set that wasn’t as cheap as I thought it was.

My childhood bedroom set that my dad bought for me.

2 thoughts on “Thrift & Consignment: A bargain by any other name…

  1. Phyllis Burdette says:

    I love going to Colorado and it was good to read the familiar names of all the small towns in the mountains. I haven’t done any purposeful thrifting while there but one time my husband and I were attending a convention in Denver and were heading into the mountains after the meetings. I realized our clothes were probably not the best for warmth and we just happened to see an Arc store outside Casa Bonita. So he picked up a couple of sweatshirts with Rocky Mountain themes. (I thought the shirts may have been left behind by tourists.) I got a heavier sweater and then it was time for Casa Bonita to open. We were glad to find some extra clothes without searching all over town.


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