The line between solid thrift store and close-out junk shop is clearly defined in my head, but not so much here. The place, located at 1550 Market St., is City Digz (yes, with an unfortunate “z”), a name that made me think this building housed a big-dog playground until my aging eyes took their requisite 30 seconds to focus and I realized the logo wasn't a dog but, rather, a tusked, small-eared elephant wearing jean shorts. What the hell?
I played the Thrift! Not thrift! game all around the store. There were piles of the same small vinyl shoe bags, a full table of reissued Fiestaware mugs, a small stack of brand-new religious kids' books and no less than five pairs of different vintage Ferragamo black pumps. Thrift! Not thrift! And then I spotted this sign: “Women's Undies $1.50—Inside Drawer!” (Yes, there was an exclamation point, and, no, I didn't look inside.) That settled it: Not thrift.
Miles of Dockers later, I was ready to concede, and then I spotted a ridiculously cute red, white and blue dress with gold and blue enamel buttons, and my heart skipped a beat. It was mod, genuine vintage and one-of-a-kind. I pushed through the racks and found more and more adorable clothes, all priced between two and six bucks. A Splendid sweater, no worse for wear. A Lacoste polo with petite stripes. A white V-neck sweater with three adorable cartoon raccoons skipping and smelling flowers embroidered on the front. Thrift!
At the counter, it all became clear—the Father Joe bobblehead gave it away. This is another outlet of the Father Joe do-gooder empire.
And I'm not complaining—all that much.
I don't know anyone who's hit City Digz yet—and there I go, giving it away. Most thrift-goers aren't keen on revealing their secret spots. But I do have this column to fill, so here goes nothing: The Amvets at the bottom of West Washington Street (3441 Sutherland St.) is good, but it has nothing on the Amvets in Spring Valley (999 Cardiff St.). I never cease to find something startlingly swell. The newest outpost of Goodwill is better than most; located on 9575 Mission Gorge Road in Santee, it's almost too clean but chock-full of fabulous clothes. My favorite sub-genre of thrift is the old-lady thrift shop (lots of granny accessories), and one of the better ones is tucked away in a strip mall in Rancho Bernardo. The American Cancer Society Discovery Shop (16787 Bernardo Center Drive) always has vintage dresses and weird, yet cool, orthopedic heels.
And just a block down 15th Street from City Digz (still can't type that without feeling a little throw-up) is a new shop that many moons ago was a stupendous thrift store.
It's now called Humble Heart Thrift, and while it's not the best shop in the bunch, it does hold a special place in my humble heart. I've been by a few times, and with every visit, the place has been re-arranged into some new, not entirely logical, configuration. But there are little rooms with kids' goods or vintage ceramics or baskets—a whole room dedicated to baskets. I don't need baskets, nobody really needs baskets, but the people running this place have a certain Carson McCullers misfit charm that both scares and delights me.
Send your top-secret list of genuine thrifts to firstname.lastname@example.org.