Kalamazoo Thrift Store Tour

Every time we go to Kalamazoo, we get sucked in by the breweries and bypass the thrift stores. Not this time. I looked up all the thrift stores in the area on Google Maps and clicked “avoid highways,” becasue that’s how we like to travel.

We started out at a Salvation Army Family Store where I scooped up a twin size vintage sheet, among a few other treasures. It’s fitted, so I’ll have to cut the elastic out of it before I can use the fabric. I knew it was old when I tugged on the elastic, and it crunched. Busted elastic may make other buyers shy away, but since I am just harvesting the fabric, I scored some serious yardage.

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No maker label, but I suspect it’s from the 1970s.

 

I also found the most amazing vintage beach towel I have ever seen. I think I can make about six messenger bags out of the terry cloth. The sail boats absolutely kill me.

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This towel has all the colors.
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Sail on!

 

I found another Salvation Army just down the road in Portage, MI. Judging from the photos online, this joint was massive. And it was. After perusing the neckties, I went through the “boudoir” section and headed for the linens. They had a ton of fabric that was sorted nicely, but none of it appealed to me. I’m very particular about the type of fabric I buy these days. Not by choice. I just don’t have any more space to store mediocre polyester. Make no mistake. I can always find a spot to squirrel away some premium fabrics.

The three racks behind the fabric had some awesome sheets and pillowcases.  I turned up a Monticello by Cannon floral flat sheet and a few pillow cases made by Penn-Prest, Sears, and Springmaid.

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Monticello by Cannon

 

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I’m digging the orange butterfly on that yellow pillowcase.

It was right about this time that I saw a sheet pattern that I recognized. A while back, I bought a Cannon Royal Family Featherlite bed spread from the Kalamazoo Antiques Market for $8 that I planned to use for fabric. When I got home and discovered that while the sizing was for a full size mattress, it fit our queen size bed well enough and I decided not to cut it up. Today, a matching queen size flat sheet was hanging on the rack at the Sal. Coincidence or fate? I can’t wait to bust out this 1970s sheet/bedspread combo when the weather warms up.

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The half-off color was yellow. I looked down at my findings and saw a few yellow tags, including the sheet that partially completes our springtime bed set. Yes. That’s the sugar.

We decided to test out a few Goodwill Stores, which as you might already know, can be hit or miss on vintage merchandise. Sometimes, I suspect there are people within the organization who don’t see any value in old clothing, fabric, or linens and cast it aside. But in reality, I have no idea what their sorting standards are like. We did find a few vintage neckties for $1.19 each at one Goodwill, while another location was a total bust.

 

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The new vintage necktie lineup from various Kalamazoo area thrift stores.

 

My intuition was telling me that our luck was running out. There’s only so much gold you can dig up in one day. We decided to hit the NuWay Thrift Store on Cork Street as our last stop. The interior of the store is really dark, and the prices are fairly high. As a result, they have tons of stuff that appears as if it has been hanging around for a while. I am more than willing to dig through piles of clothing and fabric if I think I can come up with something for a good price, but this isn’t my first thrift store rodeo. I can sniff out a low-turnover hoard of mediocre goods in an instant. It wasn’t all bad. I managed to unearth two pieces of pretty cool polyester knit among the fabric. It was finally time to split and drink a celebratory beer at Bell’s Brewery.

 

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It looks like wool, but it’s not. Polyester forever!
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If you look at it too long, the pattern will start to move.

 

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The great vintage necktie bonanza

I don’t know about you, but when I travel, I start scoping out the thrift store scene as soon as I roll into town. Huntsville, Alabama and Johnson City, Tennessee had the goods on some super wide vintage neckties. The Thrift Mart in Huntsville had one of the biggest tie collections I have ever seen in my life and it was teeming with tacky neck wear. I also picked up a few choice vintage ties at the Salvation Army Family Store and the Downtown Rescue Mission Thrift.

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Prince Consort was really using his noodle when he added that built in tie clasp. Brilliant!

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I believe Pablo would approve.
I believe Pablo would approve.

When we reached Johnson City, the Salvation Army Family Store had such an abundance of ties that many of them had been tossed into a bin on the floor. I sifted through the tangled mess of polyester and silk and came up with several vintage prizes I believe belonged to one man. I love trying to figure out if a collection of items in a thrift store all came from one person. As evidenced by the couple of clip-on ties and a few more that had been left tied in a Windsor knot, I concluded that all of my new Wembly gems belonged to the same dude. I built a picture in my head of bachelor who is either lazy or doesn’t know how to tie a tie. In either case, the manager seemed thrilled that I had taken some ties off her hands. She didn’t even count them. She just asked me, “How many?” and quickly took my money.

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Oooh. It must be shark week

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I already have hundreds of neckties that I use when making pockets and straps for my messenger bags, but that won’t stop me. They’re usually about a buck, don’t take up much space in my sewing area and the dazzling array of colors and patterns I find continually blow my mind. I dive into a rack and, pop my head up and yell at Rad, “Ooooh. Look at this one!”

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100% polyester. Accept no substitutes.

Once I was in a Goodwill and couldn’t find the men’s necktie section. Somebody came out from the sorting room and told me that they had “sent them all back” because they were under the impression that nobody wanted to purchase a bunch of ugly old polyester neckties. Never say never sorting room people. There are folks like me out there who have a significant, but manageable hoarding problem. Here are some more photos of what I scored in Tennessee and Alabama. Be on the lookout for them to appear as an accent to a messenger bag in my Etsy shop:

 

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“International” polyester? The Sal should have charged more for this one.

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The I-127 Corridor Sale

As we took off down the road from Fayetteville, TN a rainbow materialized across the highway. I took this as a sign of good luck for the I-127 Corridor Sale that runs from Alabama to Michigan for four days every August. We drove toward Chattanooga where we would follow the road north. I knew we were close to the action when traffic slowed to a crawl. We have a yard sale strategy we call “stick and move.” My husband, Rad, will drive by at a creep, while I scope out the scene. If I see some premium junk, we find place to stash the F-150, hop out and survey the scene. There’s a lot to see and I was looking for fabric, old neckties and vintage sewing notions.

 

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the good luck rainbow

 

After seeing things like deer heads hanging from a telephone poll, cow skulls, an old hippie and tons of rusty bikes, we decided to ease on down the road and search for something to eat. There weren’t many restaurants on this leg of the trail, but we stumbled upon the Lone Oak community center and volunteer fire department combined into one building. And they had chili dogs and sweet tea. A woman played the piano in the large dining area, plus she was taking requests. We passed through the industrial kitchen, scored some hot dogs, corn bread and tea before someone informed us that there was also a book and quilt sale down the hall.

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hot dog with chips and tea

 

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The Lone Oak hot dog mess hall

 

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just a pile of cow skulls

 

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animal heads on a telephone poll

 

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a tree that is ready for Halloween 

 

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rusty bikes for all ages

 

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just in case you’re in the market for an animal hide

 

I found a Bargello book for a quarter before passing into the quilt room. A woman sat at a table and asked me if I wanted to purchase a raffle ticket for a huge quilt that hung from the ceiling. I explained that I lived in Michigan so I had no way of picking up the quilt if I were to win the raffle. “Well, we’ll mail it to ya!” she said. Who can argue with that? Wish me luck. I also scored some sweet high-quality corduroy for two bucks a yard. The woman who sold me that raffle ticket measured it out by stretching the material from her nose to her finger tips and I walked out with a sack stuffed full of good quality fabric for about ten bucks.

 

 

We plugged on up the road without much luck after that. Second-hand fire arms and rebel flags began to dominate the stops we rode past, and since I am certainly not in the market for those items, we cut over to Nashville and began a new quest for craft beer and fried chicken.

Here are a few more photos from the trail:

 

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good quality junk this way

 

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creepy antique dentist chair

 

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everything you need to start up a diner

 

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old photos of people you don’t know

 

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piles of merchandise

 

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potato field