Arts & Culture / Featured / Mosaic / April 8, 2015

Thrifting across Galesburg: exploring local secondhand shops

Thrifting has become popular among millennials in recent years due to its frugality and eco-friendliness. As many college students turn to thrifting as an accessible alternative to retail clothes, thrifted clothes have developed into an aesthetic of their own.

This time of year is one of the busiest times for thrift stores as many local residents are undergoing spring cleaning. So I thought it would be a good time to sift through the racks of the nearby shops.

Late Saturday morning, photographer Williams Shen and I took our bicycles and headed out into town with the intent of visiting five of Galesburg’s most popular thrift stores among Knox students: Community Treasures, The Purple Hanger, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Renew.

We first stopped at Community Treasures, a volunteer-run thrift shop on East Main Street that has been operating since 1976.

Despite being a local charity, Community Treasures gives particularly close care to the items they sell.

“We clean everything that comes in. All of the housewares are washed and cleaned. The clothes are washed and ironed. We have men here to take care of the electronics [to check] everything to make sure it works before we put it out,” volunteer Barb McCalin said.

As a community-based charity, Community Treasures has established a following of loyal Galesburg residents. Shoppers appreciate the seemingly random nature of the inventory.

After buying two hats and a poster all for less than $10, Williams and I headed to The Purple Hanger, a resale shop on Tompkins St. that has been in business since late 2008. The eclectic shop fills its 3,000-square-foot space with clothes, books, knickknacks, old technologies and gadgets, and is busier than ever revamping its inventory for the spring season.

“We get donations every day from residents around the city,” local resident and regular volunteer Cindy Campbell said.

The shop had a wide array of available items for any appreciator of vintage styles; I bought a 1950s American Tourister Tri-Taper train case for $3.

We then headed to Goodwill, one of the larger, corporate thrift stores in town. As a more widely recognized business, Goodwill attracts people of various demographics.

“Anywhere from college students to families [shop at Goodwill],” Goodwill co-manager Rochelle Markley said.

“If someone needs something for a project, they come to Goodwill,” co-manager Joe Winbigler said.

After sifting through the aisles and buying two shirts and a vest for $12, we rode to Salvation Army, the other large, corporate thrift store in town. From the perspective of floor manager Michael Day, it seemed that a lot of Knox students gravitated towards the shop.

“We get quite a few college students,” Day said. “I would probably say maybe a third of our customers are college students.”

Our final stop was Renew Thrift Store and Benevolence Store (colloquially “Renew”), a relatively young local charity that runs through Northwoods Community Church on West Fremont Street.  A smaller shop than its corporate neighbors, Renew maintains an aesthetic that seems to be more oriented towards a younger demogaphic.

“I think it’s more oriented toward younger people,” freshman Kristina Mengis, who occasionally frequents Renew, said. “It does feel a lot different than a Goodwill or another [thrift store] like that.” Packed to the ceiling with items like $5 maroon oxfords, the store’s merchandise is as well-organized and well-presented as its corporate counterparts.


Stefan Torralba

Tags:  Galesburg local secondhand shops stores Thrifting

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