By Riley Eisenbeil
Thrift stores were initially designed to benefit low-income communities, but have gained more traction in recent years— especially among Gen Z. Some people are going because they can find cheaper options and secondhand shopping can produce cool and unique pieces. Others want to keep clothing in the cycle of use, rather than in a landfill, for longer than fast fashion does.
While these reasons make thrifting sound awesome, overconsumption in these spaces can lead to continual price increases, which defeats the purpose of affordability for low-income communities, so just be mindful of how much you are taking home.
If you’re missing your go-to thrift stores from home or are looking for places to start, here are a few thrift stores within a short driving distance from The College.
Goodwill Store and Donation Center – Ewing, NJ (7 minutes away)
Goodwill is a well-known thrift store, and there’s one close to campus right on North Olden Avenue. They are currently in the process of reorganizing their sections, but typically everything is categorized and properly sorted with signs, so it is easy to find specific things.
They have a ton of items including kitchen appliances like coffee makers, popcorn makers, crock pots and bamboo steamers, blankets, suitcases, crutches and walkers, as well as tons of books, records and DVDs. Each tag is assigned a color and certain colors will have discounts on some days.
The dressing rooms are open, and they accept both cash and cards. You can also drop off clothing donations at the back of the building any time they are open.
“Goodwill is the closest [thrift store] to the college and has a [15% off] student discount on Thursdays, so it’s always worth stopping in to see what they have. You really have to dig through their clothing, but I’ve found some gems, and they also always have good household items that college students could use” – Cassie Malnick, senior communications studies major.
“It’s a quaint little place and a nice little diamond in the rough” – Gianna Marrano, junior music education major.
“They do one dollar Sundays where every tag that has the chosen colors is a dollar. I’ve gotten some really sick stuff for a dollar” – Shelly Bennett, junior speech-language pathology major.
Plato’s Closet – Lawrence, NJ (10 minutes away)
Plato’s Closet is another well-known thrift spot and this location is only 10 minutes away from the College. They sell clothes, bathing suits and shoes in addition to a wide variety of accessories, and everything is organized very well by size and item. The shop primarily carries name-brand items including Nike, Vans, Cotton On, Zara and American Eagle. They carry a wide range of sizes in-store as well, which is a plus.
You can return items within a week as long as you have the original receipt and the tags are still on (shoes, clearance and accessories are final sale).
The dressing rooms are open, and they accept cash and cards. They also offer people “cash for clothes” so you can drop off a bag and they will call you back by the end of the day to pick up your money and any items the store did not accept.
“I love going to Plato’s to casually shop with my housemates since it's so close to campus, and they always have new stuff coming in! Anytime I need an outfit for a party or a concert, Plato’s is the first and only stop I have to make. I’ve never left empty-handed!” – Kayleigh Lalumiere, junior history major.
“What’s so cool about Plato’s Closet is that they have so many name-brand clothing for a lower price. It’s one of my go-to shopping destinations around campus from the big assortment of shirts, jeans, sweatshirts, sweatpants, you name it!” – Alexa Giacoio, junior communications studies major.
“I know a lot of people don’t like thrifting because vintage clothing isn’t their style, and I think Plato’s Closet would be the perfect alternative for them to shop secondhand and still find the brands they like” – Malnick.
Red, White & Blue Thrift Store – Mercerville, NJ (14 minutes away)
Red, White & Blue Thrift Stores can only be found in 10 states and luckily there is one located less than 15 minutes from The College. When you first walk in you can see the hundreds of pairs of shoes and jeans right away. They had lots of bedding and linens, TVs and stereos, records, books, games and craft sets and a ton more.
No returns or exchanges are allowed at this thrift store. They only accept cash so be sure to bring some (there is an ATM on site, but it’s not always in service). They also accept donations every day and items can be dropped off at a big truck in the parking lot.
“Red, White & Blue is probably my favorite thrift store near campus because they consistently have the best quality vintage clothing. I will say this is always the busiest location out of all the thrift stores nearby” – Malnick.
“I’ve only been to Red, White & Blue twice, and it was in high school, but they had a lot of cute stuff. I got my prom dress from there for $15 and it was beautiful, gorgeous and really good quality — I was obsessed with it, and it was so cheap” – Lalumiere.
“Red, White & Blue is massive — I think I was in there for upwards of two hours. The selection was actually pretty large which was a pleasant surprise … I needed business casual for an internship sophomore year, and I wore them to every formal event after that too. I still have everything and I wear them to work now” – Breana Stringer, Class of 2021 criminology major.
2nd Ave Thrift Superstore – Hamilton, NJ (16 minutes away)
2nd Ave is the furthest thrift in this list, but it is still only 16 minutes away from The College. Their sections are well organized and have dozens of categories and subcategories labeled to make it easier to navigate. They have many items you might not expect to find at a thrift store, such as extension cords, hair dryers, fondue fountains, luggage and purses.
One unique thing about 2nd Ave is that they have a wall of what seems to look like “go bags” that are in categories like office supplies, utensils, gadgets, home decor and more. They range from $2-6 and include items like razors, ribbons, crayons, knife sets, coasters, candles and fake flowers.
2nd Ave has a public restroom as well as snacks and drinks available to purchase while you shop and also accepts both cash and cards. They also have open fitting rooms to ensure you like your finds.
“2nd Avenue is one of the only thrift stores I've been to where I can reliably find something I like every single visit and the items themselves are usually in great shape” – Mallory McGowan, junior music and film production major.
“What I like about 2nd Ave is how big the selection is! When I go thrifting, I'm usually just looking for a goofy t-shirt or an oversized sweater, but they always have tons of options for any and everything” – Bianca McDonald, junior math secondary education major.
“Honestly, the best part about it is how big it is! They also have a good amount of larger sizes in clothing which places like Plato’s closet don’t really have. They also do daily sales based on the tag colors so you can get amazing stuff for even cheaper” – Madi Potash, senior communications studies major.
There are plenty of second-hand stores near campus that offer a variety of unique and affordable items, but these four are particularly popular in the College community due to their proximity and wide variety of items. Whether you need to furnish your dorm or off-campus house on a budget, or are looking for some new wardrobe pieces, these stores are worth checking out!