The World’s Most Glorious Goodwill

GoodwillLast week Hillary and I (and one adorable twin) drove past a new and giant Goodwill on the way to the fabric store. We needed to get back home after lunch, but we planned to make a trip to check it out another day. On a whim, I said, “Let me look it up and see if it’s a good one.” And then my jaw more or less dropped because I realized from the pictures that it was A BARGAIN BARN. Those of you who have been around for a while know of my deep love for the Bargain Barn in Memphis, where I have scored all of my leather boots for $1 per pair and tons of fantastic clothes for $1.49 per pound. That’s right, $1.49 per pound. It is the most magical of places for people who love to treasure hunt. You really never know what you’ll find. Among my plunder: a copy of Madame Bovary in French, designer clothes with the tags still on them, and more shoes, purses, and belts than you could shake a stick at. A good 70% of my wardrobe comes from there (except, alas, in these latter days, when I haven’t had the chance to visit as often). I never ever imagined that they would open a Bargain Barn here, though I certainly checked when we moved here. I just never dared to hope! So, you can imagine my extreme glee when I made this discovery. I totally texted my mom in all caps about it. Two days later, unable to resist the siren song, Hillary and I made our maiden voyage. As a point of technicality, this Bargain Barn is called a Goodwill Outlet. But no matter: a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

GoodwillThis Goodwill is actually a MEGA Goodwill. It has the outlet store, a regular Goodwill, a cafe, a career center, and meeting rooms. And maybe even some other stuff that I didn’t notice. It was impressive. This is the entryway. Beautiful, no?

GoodwillAfter a quick look around, we headed over to the outlet store. I could not believe how big it was! At least three times as big as the Bargain Barn, if not bigger. This picture doesn’t even get all of it. I told Hillary as we were walking in that although it was $1.49 per pound of clothing in Memphis, I expected it to be more like $2.50 or even $3.00 here–everything is pricier in California. But it was $1.49! And $0.69 per pound for everything else. Amazing.

GoodwillNow, a bigger store requires a different strategy. In Memphis, my mom and I have a system to thoroughly comb every bin, and we usually hit it all. But here, you have to be more choosy because it’s just impossible to see it all. I don’t like one experience better than the other–they are both fun. One other cool distinction–at the one in Memphis, there is a scale you place your clothing items on to be weighed. Here the scales are mounted into the floor. You just drive your cart onto it, they take off the tare weight, and that’s it!

GoodwillSo, how does this work? As far as I can tell, the items for sale here are things that did not sell within a certain amount of time in the regular Goodwill. I have no idea how they would keep up with that much volume, but I think it has to do with the colored tags (items in the bins have the colored tags, but not the paper price tag). Goodwill always has 50% off a certain color tag every day, so maybe after they clear out most one color tag with the discount, they send the rest of it to the outlet. I don’t know exactly what magic makes it all work, but I am continually amazed at the things I find there. My favorite thing about it is the absolute freedom–it’s so cheap that it’s almost free, so why not take a chance on something? It’s a great place to find items that have great fabric but need some reworking (I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to pay $10 for something that I’m going to dye or alter). I also really love the “found objects” philosophy that overtakes me when I’m there–I buy things I might never have considered in a retail store, and I end up loving them. I will never tire of this adventure. Oh! And a bit of Bargain Barn culture–the people lined up in this photo are waiting for a new bin to come out. They brought out 10 or 12 while we were there.

GoodwillWithout fail, something like this always turns up. I am glad I had my Goodwill supermodel to show it off for me!

GoodwillBy now we had worked up an appetite, so we headed over to the cafe. When I first heard that they had a cafe, I didn’t imagine it would be anything too nice. But I was so pleasantly surprised! They have a really nice and extensive menu, and the food was really good (and so ridiculously cheap!). I should also note that everyone was so tremendously kind that I actually thought I might be in Memphis. Not that people aren’t friendly here too, but there’s a certain openness and sense of welcome that I always associate with home.

GoodwillGuess how much I paid for this enormous veggie sandwich and salad? SIX. DOLLARS. That’s an LA miracle. They also had smoothies and really good-looking pastries, and (be still my heart) a fancy coffee machine. You could spend all day here. And someday we might!

GoodwillThis is the cafe interior. Cute, yeah?

GoodwillI forgot to show you the cool mural.

GoodwillAfter lunch we hit up the regular Goodwill. It was a very nice one, but we didn’t buy too much, still too consumed with the glory of the outlet.

GoodwillWant to know what I got? I love it when other people show off their plunder, so I will do so here. And then you have to guess how much it all cost! This is a game we always play with my dad when we get home from the Bargain Barn. All of this is from the outlet, for the record. I got two pairs of pants (for post-baby!), a skirt, three t-shirts, and a tank top. And yes, that green t-shirt on top depicts a T-Rex biting a reindeer’s butt, so obviously I had to have it.

GoodwillAnd I got a few little things for the baby for when he’s a bit bigger: a playsuit, lion pants, and (most importantly!) a monkey hoodie.

GoodwillI also got a few books. The red one is an old encyclopedia volume with really cool illustrations. So, guess how much all this cost! $30? $20? $15? No! $9.40! That’s right, nine dollars and forty cents. If ever there were a shopping paradise, this is it! (If you’re local, here is the info for this amazing place. And, even though this ode is full to the brim with praise, no one paid me to write it. I just really love Goodwill!)

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