May 16 2012 11:38 AM

Our first Urban Scout bids farewell with a roundup of second-hand gems

Mission Outreach Thrift's big box of seashells
Photo by Clea Hantman

Logically, I know it's ridiculous. Just because this is my last column about shopping, it doesn't mean I'll never, ever shop again. And yet, that's how I've felt all week—as if I can't get enough retail pleasure and I can't get it fast enough. Like a starving man finally face-to-face with a long, abundant buffet of food, I've overindulged. Shall I count the ways, the places, the meals? Seems like a fitting tribute to a column I've long regarded to be about so much more than shopping. This week's booty included trips to not one, but two granny thrift stores, plus a few thrift-ish stores. Seeing as I'm off the column by the time you read this, I can now admit that 99.9 percent of my clothes come from either Forever 21 (egads!) or thrift stores. And, shhhh, don't tell anyone—but my favorite thrift stores have never, ever been mentioned in this column. Now it's time. Yes, it's time.

The Assistance League Thrift Shop in Hillcrest (108 University Ave., 619-291-9464) is run by a flock of ol' hens who provide colorful commentary on life and your purchases. The prices are reasonable, though not cheap. And when you leave, your hands feel none the grimier, even after touching everything. Old ladies clean a lot, and that's why I love these stores. So, this week I left with a vintage purse (half off ), a '50s-era commemorative state tin, a sweatshirt that my husband has already threatened to burn if I wear it (it's pink), a vintage royal-blue sweater with ruffles at the neck and a crazy-cute short black and cream bolero jacket. Total: $24.

My next old-lady thrift is in Normal Heights— Mission Outreach Thrift (3186 Adams Ave., 619-528-0026) where clearly there's some sort of magnetic pull for the odd; they have some truly weird stuff. And good books. These hens tend to discuss politics and guns, and it's a hoot because, let's just say, their views aren't always in line with mine. Or the other customers'. And yet that's never stopped them. I tried to find a place in my home for the beautiful compartmentalized box of seashells, sorted by shape and color, but it was freaking huge. However, this week's bounty did include several fine scarves (one was a Vera!), an ancient book of fairy tales, another black and cream bolero (say what?) and a vintage enameled cast-iron pan. Total: $17.

I can't recall if I've written about Revivals (1644 University Ave., 619-497-1000) in Hillcrest. This Palm Springs-based chain of thrifts initially turned me off because of its penchant for carrying cheap new goods. But I've learned to ignore the aisles of matching Hawaiian shirts and mirrored bedroom furniture sets. Instead, I turn my attention to the housewares and the clothes. In the former category, this week I found an L.L. Bean wool blanket that looks like a vintage Pen delton and three old ceramic vases (one shaped like a seashell). I also found plastic shoes boxes, but not those container-store-new Rubbermaid ones—these are old-school, and I imagine they once held '50s stilettos. Today they hold my makeup and hair goods. In the clothing department I found a long gray cotton dress with a deep-V and dramatic pockets. I thought it was very J. Crew. The husband thought it was very Amish. I purchased it anyway. Total: $21.

I also never wrote about Buffalo Exchange because everyone knows it's there in Hillcrest. (And the Pacific Beach location has an incredible selection of designer jeans.) I stop there once a week, often leaving empty-handed—but not this week. In my successful effort to gorge myself on stuff, I purchased an orange polka-dot shirt, a small black leather bag that reads "PARIS" in gold lettering and a pair of jeans that fit me better than any I've ever known. Total: $42.

And then, because why the hell not, I stopped in Forever 21. I had to; I had an appointment at Apple. But guess what? I found nothing and felt OK about it. Really. In fact, it finally bothered me that it was so devoid of soul (and grime), perhaps because of my desperate race through the previous four stores. As I leave this column behind, I think I may be able to also leave behind the XXI.


Editor's note: Carissa Casares will take over this column on May 30, and Alex Zaragoza will handle blogging duties at Many thanks to Clea Hantman for being our very first Scout and for always surprising us (and her readers) with her finds.

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