A walk through 5 local thrifts


Bryce Dailey

Clothes hang on racks at the Upshift Swap Shop in downtown Madison.

Bryce Dailey, Staff Writer

From the penny-pinching elderly to college students shivering at the thought of rent and tuition payments, shopping second-hand is essential to anyone on a tight budget. And for the love of all things frugal, Madison is the place to be.
The greater Madison area encompasses over 40 thrift, resale and consignment stores, each with their own distinctive quirks. Although it will require some thorough sifting, the yearly $1,700 thrifters can save, according to a CNBC report, justifies the effort. An abundance of bargains can be found at the following five stores, whether you’re in the market for furniture or knick-knacks.

BHA Resale Store Unlimited
3365 E Washington Ave.
Seeming to specialize in miscellaneous items, deal seekers are bound to pick up an item they were previously unaware they needed, including but limited to: fishing poles, pool sticks, crock pots and garden tools. However, the selection on clothing is limited, despite the name of the business.
There is also a noteworthy section of electronics. Commodities like a VCR are hard to find outside of thrift stores like this. The shop also sells a range of other tech, like DVD players, which can be paired with the $3 DVDs stocked 30 feet to the left.
Although disorganized, the best of the inventory resides in the back room of the store, where a slew of the aforementioned garden tools lay strewn across the floor in front of two bookcases. 13 boxes of vinyl records sit nearby, selling at $1 apiece, or $5 for six. Similar deals are offered for CDs, three for $5, and DVDs, four for $10.

Dig & Save
1900 S Park St.
This second-hand outlet store is for those with the most vacant of all checking accounts. Clothing is sold by the pound for $1.25. Upon opening the front door, customers are greeted with the sight of 67 large green crates, each filled with a mountain of pants, shirts and the occasional sock, completely unorganized. These crates are the clothing graveyard. A final chance for customers to take pity upon these garments and purchase them. Although with enough digging, there are treasures to be found in these heaps.
While searching through the crates, a metallic racket can be heard from the store’s second room, where prices are reduced to 50 cents per pound. In this much larger room, Dig & Save has somehow arranged an even more random assortment of objects, thrown together in long blue troughs. An overflowing trough in the second row contains Christmas decorations, a pair of headphones, jigsaw puzzles and VHS tapes, mixed in with hundreds of other odds and ends.
Customers in every direction are clawing through the items fast as possible, as if in some sort of a bargain-induced hypnosis. A section of quality used furniture with marked pricing sits farther back in the room, where an array of wooden chairs for sale are suspended from the ceiling. With possibly the best prices in the area, this is a truly unique establishment.

Upshift Swap Shop
836 E Johnson St.
Customers have two options at Upshift, buying or swapping. The concept of swapping involves first donating a bag of your own clothes. Customers can then refill the bag with clothes in-store and purchase them at a reduced price. The goal is sustainability. This also gives the consumer incentive to donate. A filled bag after swapping can be purchased for $20, compared to $30 if you want to fill a bag without donating. Items can also be purchased individually. The inventory is comprised of women’s tops primarily.
The store also features a few upscale garments, some of which have been painted on to display messages like “Free Palestine,” retailing for $50 to $90. Upshift effectively appeals to the young, trendy and progressive clientele of downtown Madison.

Agrace East
2402 E Springs Dr.
Agrace is the quintessential “grandma store.” Fourteen of the 16 clothing racks are women’s clothes, coupled with shelves full of chintzy but cute trinkets and houseware.
Although far from an ideal source of men’s clothing, the rack of men’s pants, which retail for $5.99 each, is a highlight for a reluctant husband taken on a shopping excursion. Other features of the shop include a large collection of books and 99 cent records. Books are categorized alphabetically, with separate sections for children’s books and a dedicated shelf of 93 James Patterson novels.
This level of organization is not always present in thrift stores.
Agrace possesses a certain elegant yet cozy feeling within its space, whether it be from the friendly staff or the luscious folk rock of James Taylor quietly playing throughout the store. The quality of items, rarely tattered, may also be a factor. The Wisconsin-based chain of stores uses all profits to fund a health-care agency according to the Agrace website, and are currently promoting multiple specials and sales from October to December. All bottoms sell for $2 on Oct. 20, along with jewelry, handbags and shoes 30% off on Nov. 10.

St. Vincent de Paul
1309 Williamson St.
Between the many St. Vincent de Paul stores in existence, the crown belongs to this nifty Williamson St. location. There is a substantial variety of clothing. Formal dresses of every color sell for $3, next to a rack of Halloween costumes. Murderous clown and inmate seem to be the most popular choices for whichever reason, with multiple sizes of both.
Various forms of media, laserdisc included, are stocked in a sunlit room to the right of the doorway, which is more akin to a library than a second-hand store. Books occupy every inch. Framed artwork hangs atop the shelves, available to purchase for $5-$30, depending on the piece.
Across the store are more home furnishings, where customers can also find a few pieces of furniture. A dingy sofa, complete with a tacky brown floral pattern, awaits a buyer. For $50, this sofa and the many other pieces in St. Vinny’s at similar price points are a suitable option.
While not a definitive “best-of” list, these five establishments offer grand savings and an intriguing experience for the droves of Madison thrift enthusiasts.