Local thrift stores and consignment shops haven’t been untouched by the economic crunch, their owners say, but the niche they fill certainly hasn’t disappeared.
“Where we used to have customers who would impulse shop for things like rare finds and collectibles, now we’re seeing people coming in for necessities, like kitchen items,” said Mary Lehrer of in Port Jefferson Station.
At the Op-Shop, a non-profit volunteer operation, revenue is presently around $5,000 annually, down from the roughly $15,000 per year it brought in a decade ago, according to the shop’s coordinator, Elsie Cadicamo.
One volunteer attributed the drop to the departure of the church’s longtime pastor in 2002 and a consistent lack of volunteers, and also acknowledged the shop’s out-of-the-way location on Christian Avenue.
Louise Grinere has volunteered at Mather Hospital Thrift Shop in Port Jefferson for 10 years.
“We’re not as successful as last year but we’re pretty close,” said Grinere. She said the customer base doesn’t change much, with many of the same faces checking back periodically for new items. She noted that the shop has many items that are price-fixed at three or five dollars, and features a sale each Wednesday where prices are cut in half – more incentive for consumers seeking good products at a good price.
The economy didn’t deter Nancy Brown from opening Re-Threads Boutique in East Setauket in May. Brown had operated Auntie N’s Attic in downtown Port Jefferson for one year before she closed in order to focus on some things in her personal life. She always intended to get back in the business, she said, so she worked out a rental agreement with .
Sales so far have been higher than anticipated, Brown said, and she sees a significant number of young people looking for that real find.
“What’s really big with the high school crowd and the young college crowd is vintage,” she said, noting the “steam punk” style, which uses heavily dated articles of clothing such as bowler hats and old-fashioned vests.
Brown said she has always had an interest in vintage clothing and has noticed its pop culture appeal “growing rapidly” with the popularity of TV shows like That 70’s Show and The Big Bang Theory. She also noted the attractiveness of the unique.
“There’s actually a little bit of a snob appeal when it comes to vintage,” she said. She waved her hand toward a pinkish evening gown hanging near the counter.
“Say I wear this to an affair and someone says, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so beautiful, where’d you get that?’” she said.
“‘It’s vintage,’” she said as a wry smile spread across her face and her eyebrows rose.
"Meaning, 'You can’t get it.'"