The Foghorn’s Guide to the Top 5 Thrift Shops in the City

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Thriftshops, like this Goodwill on Haight, allow students to be fashionable, save money, and even contribute to worthy causes.  Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn
Thriftshops, like this Goodwill on Haight, allow students to be fashionable, save money, and even contribute to worthy causes. Photo by Melissa Stihl/Foghorn

I don’t mean to go all Forrest Gump on you, but when I was a kid my parents forced me to go back-to-school shopping at thrift stores because we were poor. Now that “retro” fashion has risen to prominence, this economic and environmentally friendly form of shopping has become a popular method for students to purchase high-fashion items at a price that won’t cut into their grocery money.

Whether you’re on the hunt of a collection of short stories, a rare record or one-of-a-kind accessories, the thrift shops in San Francisco have what you’re looking for. Thrifting takes a little time and a lot of patience, so I figured I’d save you the hard part and let you in on what shops we at the Foghorn Scene consider the best kept wallet-savers in the Bay.

1. Goodwill (1580 Mission)

There are ten Goodwills in San Francisco proper, and each possesses its own individual charm. However, none quite compares to the Goodwill flagship store. A true Thriftopia, this location is brimming with useful household items, a mix of vintage and contemporary clothing, row after row of shoes and a library of books all in good condition and tagged at reasonable prices.

If your pad needs a little apartment therapy, they have the frames, furniture, curtains and kitchenware you need to personalize your space. In addition to assisting you with your shopping, Goodwill Industries helps in the community, so you can rest assured that your purchases are going right back to the Bay Area.

2. Thrift Town (2101 Mission)

It is no secret that Thrift Town is the reigning queen of the local thrift shopping dynasty. Its daily discounts, large selection of clothes in every style and second floor crammed with furniture and housewares have made it a frequent recipient of the Guardian’s “Best of the Bay” award. Sure, their clothing may sometimes be marked by a mysterious stain or give off a strange odor, but they don’t let anything on the floor that a dab of bleach or Febreeze can’t kill.

3. Out of the Closet (1498 Polk)

If designer fashion is your thing, the Polk Street Out of the Closet presides over the rest with its offerings of high-quality, post-consumer clothing at decent prices. The cocktail dresses, fancy footwear, button-downs and everyday apparel that have trickled down from the armoires of the shop’s high-income neighbors in Pac Heights to the clean and neatly sorted racks are marked to sell. One of my favorite finds is a brand new pair of glittery Toms shoes that I’m sure used to belong to Danielle Steel, priced at a manageable eight bucks. Out of the Closet is run by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the income from all proceeds fund the medical services provided by the AHF, making it a truly unique organization.

4. Clothes Contact (473 Valencia)

If you like spandex, animal-print leggings, furry hats and Hawaiian tees, this Mission hotbed has a handpicked selection of great items to pair with your cowboy boots or canvas flats. Stuff some colorful scarves, tops, and vintage slips in a bag and slap ‘em on the scale and you’ve got yourself an outfit for only ten dollars a pound. Clothes Contact also has an exceptional selection of vintage clothing, organized by decade and vintage shoes at a price that will compete with whatever Urban Outfitters is currently charging for a “refurbished” pair of slouchy boots.

5. Community Thrift (623 Valencia)

I’ll be honest: if you are looking for clothing, Community Thrift is not your first stop thrift shop. The unimpressive items you find on the racks are often overpriced and the absence of a dressing room forces the patrons of this Mission District establishment to wiggle awkwardly into dresses and tops to the uncomfortable eyes of the rest of its customers. However, this local non-profit makes up for its shortcomings by keeping its alphabetized bookshelves well-stocked and its record bins full of vinyl gems. Don’t be startled if you pull out a Gang of Four or Miles Davis album sandwiched between Bozz Skaggs and Herb Alpert. Community Thrift stays true to its name by dispersing its profits to over 200 local charities, giving you another reason to ditch the dollar record bins at Amoeba and head over to the Mission.

40 COMMENTS

  1. Heheh, I was a Goodwill/Salvation Army kid too. SF’s thrift shops are so much more diverse and interesting than the ones I had to rummage through back in Clovis. I’m loving the thrifting in this city.

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