Students pop some tags at Berkshires thrift shops

September 21, 2016 by Nathan Munson-Palomba, Contributing Writer

The consignment section of Nature’s Closet, located on Spring Street, is a great place to thrift shop. Photo courtesy of Nathan Munson-Palomba.

The consignment section of Nature’s Closet, located on Spring Street, is a great place to thrift shop. Photo courtesy of Nathan Munson-Palomba.

Sometimes, your closet just needs an update. What better way to update it than grab a couple of friends and go thrift shopping? To make sure students at the College are well prepared for their thrifting adventure, here is the lowdown on two local thrift shops: Nature’s Closet and Goodwill.

The consignment section of Nature’s Closet is not a thrift store in the traditional sense, where you can buy a T-shirt for 99 cents or a weird pair of pants to wear to a costume party. Instead, this small section in the back of store provides students and community members with a place to buy used outdoor gear from high-quality brands at affordable prices. Unlike Goodwill or other thrift stores, Nature’s Closet buys back clothes, shoes and other outdoor gear, and then sells it in the consignment section at a considerable markdown. Store Manager Beth McClean described the section as a great way for people who might not be able to afford high quality gear to buy used clothing at as little as 10 percent of the retail price. She said the system is perfect for international students or students from warm parts of the country to stock up on fleeces, winter jackets, gloves and hats that they might never have needed at home. I found North Face winter coats from $25–40, Patagonia fleeces for $10 or $15, a variety of athletic clothes for $10 and even some practically new running shoes. Although the selection is significantly smaller than most thrift stores, each piece is in extremely good condition, and many of the brands have universal warranty policies that remain applicable.

On the other end, the consignment service is a perfect way for people who are looking for newer outerwear to return their old clothes and get store credit or cash.  Nature’s Closet offers 70 percent of the assigned consignment price in store credit, and 50 percent in cash, so sellers can pick up a few extra bucks or get a nice discount on a new coat or shoes. Overall, I found the store to be well-organized, and the consignment area, unlike in traditional thrift shops, was as neat as the rest of the place. The employees I spoke to seemed genuinely interested in helping customers get the best gear within their budgets. The store’s  free popcorn and in-house dog lends it a Mom and Pop feel (or as McClean calls it, a “sit and fit” feel).

Location: 61 Spring Street, Williamstown, Mass. Price range: $10-$50. Williams students receive a 10 percent discount.

The Goodwill in North Adams, Mass., is everything a thrift shop should be. The variety is incredible, and it’s one of those places where you think you’ve looked in every corner of the store, and then suddenly you find this incredible item that makes the search worth it. Not only is the sheer amount of items enormous, the store has way more than just clothes. It also stocks books, toys, board games, golf clubs, records, DVDs and ceramics. This is the place to find a weird birthday gift on a budget, something to make someone laugh, weird art to hang in your dorm room or an old beer mug with a strange emblem on it.

Even with this variety, it’s extremely well-organized for a thrift shop, with large racks of shirts organized by color, and each piece of clothing hung and easily accessible. Even the games, movies, DVDs and VHS tapes are organized.

In keeping with the thrift shop norm, the overwhelming majority of the clothes are for women. There are racks and racks of women’s shirts, pants and dresses, all for well under $10 per item. For men, the clothing selection is less extensive, but I found many warm, wearable coats and a couple of absolutely hilarious T-shirts. There’s also an incredible selection of men’s ties for 99 cents each.

The North Adams Goodwill is an ideal place to find strange party outfits and costumes, and it’s also a great option for anyone looking to diversify their autumn wardrobes through the addition of some funny shirts or wacky pants. The prices make each purchase low-pressure, since there’s not much fear of buyer’s remorse, and, for the most part, if you see a cup, bowl, shirt or teddy bear you want, you can afford to buy it. It’s a great place to go with friends: no matter what you go in looking for, you’ll be able to come away with at least one entertaining item, if not exactly a fashionable one.

Location: 166 State Street, North Adams, Mass. Price range: $0.99-$6.99.

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