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Sifting through Eugene’s thrift scene



Walking along 13th Avenue past campus toward Downtown Eugene, a bored student can encounter various locally owned shops including House of Records and Smith Family Bookstore. But tucked into storefronts across town are one of Eugene’s most valuable resources for the ‘broke’ college student looking to accessorize or even de-accessorize their lives: thrift stores.

One store, Eugene Jeans, has been selling offbeat top hats, cowboy boots and colorful vintage dresses for 20 years. Barbara Long and her husband Tim are the owners of this Eugene institution, where stylish students go to find everything from Doc Marten boots to metal lunchboxes embellished with cartoon characters. Long, who sat behind the counter hand-stitching a piece of clothing, said that she often sees students browsing the store for themed campus events like fraternity and sorority formals.

But Eugene thrift shops offer more than clothing that will be worn once a year.

Thrift stores sell used goods, which are often donated, sold or traded to the store by community members. Many thrift stores use their profits to help fund local charity work. For example, Goodwill channels money into its Mission service, which provides resources to help people with barriers to employment. The local Teen Challenge thrift store funds drug rehab programs and Assistance League Eugene assists local veterans, children and families through nine different programs with proceeds from its downtown store.

Eugene has a strong thrifting culture. Local stores will have their regulars who the staff know by name and community members often to run into old friends while browsing. Whether you see two grandmas catching up on each other’s family life or the cashier comments on a great find, thrift shops are a great place to connect with those in the community. Students can take advantage of this thrifting community in various ways.

Whether they’re moving into their first place or still lack some living essentials after a few years, students can utilize the huge variety of items that thrift stores offer. Local stores have clothing, dishware, furniture, odds and ends and even affordable refurbished computers. But it isn’t always about what you need. Part of the fun of thrift shopping is finding interesting things you weren’t looking for, sort of like a treasure hunt.

Even in the changing rooms, Eugene Jean’s eccentric personality is evident. (Sararosa Davies/Emerald)

Recent arrivals at the Goodwill Superstore near Valley River Center include church pews, a grand piano and not one, but two SodaStreams. Libby Steffen-Schafermeyer, executive assistant for Goodwill Industries of Lane and South Coast Counties, said that a local retail manager has also seen pacemakers and urns donated to the store. Goodwill doesn’t allow for consumers to donate certain items like waste products and mattresses, but still, both odd and useful items are always in the next aisle.

For instance, many college students might overlook the need for their own set of dishes, especially if they’ve lived in the dorms for the first few years of college. Larger thrift stores like St. Vincent de Paul’s and Goodwill have a large selection of dinnerware and cooking utensils from easy potato slicers to sets of cutlery.

The music at Eugene Jeans is appropriately retro for the store’s ambiance. (Sararosa Davies/Emerald)

If your new apartment or rental is looking a little bare, thrift stores are a great place to get affordable furniture. It’s not uncommon for a couch to go for only $20, but thrift shops aren’t just for furniture and other household items.

The local Goodwill Superstore on Green Acre Road receives all electronics donated from the Eugene area. The store is a certified Microsoft refurbisher and sells both used PCs and individual parts. If you’re looking for a cheap PC or some used electronics and accessories in good condition, it’s a good place to check out.

For those who are looking to revamp their wardrobe or find clothing that stands out, there are a multitude of thrift stores around town that cater to different needs. The Goodwill Superstore features racks and racks of used clothing for cheap prices. You might have to do some digging and should wash the clothing before wearing it, but you can also find some treasures amid the racks of pastel-colored shirts.

For those with a higher budget and fancier tastes, the Goodwill Boutique on Broadway and Buffalo Exchange on 5th Avenue offer a more curated selection with name brands as a priority. Eugene Jeans and other vintage shops in town allow for more out-there shoppers to find the perfect 1950s dress or antique chair. Most vintage stores charge more, but for those looking for that perfect outfit no one else will be wearing, these places are gems.

The main draw of thrift shopping is cheap prices. Goodwill has a discount system where it cycles out new and old items using a set of different colored stickers. Each week, goods with a certain color sticker will be half off.

If you are looking to get rid of something, thrift stores will take most items that are in decent working condition. This is a great resource for students who are moving out instead of just those moving in. According to Steffen-Schafermeyer, the local Goodwill receives an influx of new items during the spring and summer seasons, as many people are spring cleaning or moving out for the summer. Some stores arrange with the University Housing to recycle leftover items from the residence halls.

Goodwill provides a plethora of home decor options for students on a budget. (Phillip Quinn/Emerald)

As leases end for the 2016-17 academic year and students start to flood back into Eugene, the struggle to get rid of excess belongings or gain essential houseware becomes overwhelming. Thrifting, though sometimes time consuming and tedious, can ease the wallet and a stressed student’s mind. For those who are less willing to take the dive into racks of clothing and aisles of plates, thrift stores are the perfect place to give away the items your friends might not take.

After all, one student’s trash might just be another’s treasure.

You can check out a list of local thrift stores below:

Goodwill Superstore and Electronic Store: 1010 Green Acres Rd (541) 343-4332

Goodwill: 855 Seneca Rd, Eugene, OR 97402 Phone: (541) 984-8812

S.A.R.A.’s Treasures (Shelter Animal Resource Alliance): 871 River Rd, Phone: (541) 607-8892

Teen Challenge Thrift Store: 555 River Rd Phone: (541) 726-5454

Assistance League of Eugene: 1149 Willamette St Phone: (541) 485-3721

River Road 2nd Hand: 939 River Rd, Phone: (541) 689-4554

St. Vincent de Paul: 1880 W 11th Ave Phone: (541) 683-8284

Eugene Jeans: 132 E 13th Ave Phone: (541) 338-4395

Buffalo Exchange Eugene: 131 E 5th Ave Phone: (541) 687-2805

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Mathew Brock

Mathew Brock