Thrift Shopping v. Vintage. Shops to hit up in SLO

2 May

On a quest for new threads, both for the blog and the closet, San Luis Obispo had a lot to offer. There are many thrift stores in town, so here is a brief introduction on where to look.

The words “vintage,” and “thrift” store sounded synonymous before this expedition, but there are some very key differences when looking for where to shop. Some of these overlap, but it is key to understand what type of store and what to expect.

A “thrift” store is usually run by a non-profit organization, and takes donations of clothing, furniture, and other eclectic items. The items are very reasonably priced, and usually at a flat fee. There is a lot to look through, as they are not picky in any of their item choices. The clothes can be very strange and kitschy, and it is harder to come out with a good deal. The great thing about thrift stores, is they are more reliable than a garage sale and restock very often.

Strange moo moo kimono found in the back of Mission thrift

San Luis Obispo is full of thrift stores. According to Nina Doane, a student found foraging around in Mission Thrift, this is the best place. “Travelling way down Broad is worth it. People just bring more exciting finds here.” This thrift store supports the local Mission School. This place has both the random of a thrift store, and some select items picked out in the front that are better vintage finds.

Through my search, I stumbled upon an old Better Homes and Gardens gardening guide from the 60s for $2, and a great 1970s camel vintage blazer for $15.

Storefront for Old Mission Thrift is under a different name.

Vintage shops are much more cutesy, and it can definitely be worth the price. For the lover of older goods and clothing that does not want to search through endless piles and trips, this is the place to go.

Storefront of California Blonde

California Blonde is a little shop on Garden Street, whose owner is as bright and vibrant as the store. Joy Baker has been in business for fourteen years, and “has loved every minute of it.” This shop mostly sells vintage from the 40s and 50s, as well as some fun gift items in the front, which stick to the old era feel.

Her mother, Barbara, laughs at the strange items they have got and sold over the years. “We once bought an old Geiger counter, used in the 50s to measure radiation in bomb shelters. It was not working, but it was strung through with neon lights. A man from Arizona came in and bought it for a bomb shelter he was refurbishing.” They have seen plenty of strange stories like this and strange people. Joy says “you never know who is going to come through that door. But there is always a story. Many girls are dressed to the 9s, looking like they just walked straight out of the forties.”

The back of the store, where all the vintage clothing and records are kept

Their items come from all over San Luis Obispo and beyond. Joy claims “people find me. I don’t ever need to look.” She does not get to go to estate and yard sales with the time she spends in the store, but she is a great connection to have and has a following by way of word of mouth. She would not give away specific sources, as vintage collecting is a competitive business, as each item is so specific and unique.

The records are supplied by a specific vendor, but clothing and otherwise comes from all over. Joy says a great spot to find vintage and otherwise is “It’s a Wrap” in Burbank. They sell all the old clothing used for television. “We tried to get Kraemer’s outfits from Seinfeld,” laughs Joy, “but sadly they were gone by the time we got down there.”

This is a fun interactive spot, and definitely worth a peek if interested in authentic dresses and coats.

For a couple details and more shopping around SLO, here is a composite map of thrift stores and vintage shops in the area. The blue pins mark the vintage shops, the red pins are thrift stores, and purple is a mix. HAPPY FORAGING!

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