Desperate for some good thrifting in this overpriced city, I recently decided that Staten Island must be the place to go. This theory was based on nothing but a pattern I’ve noticed during my years as a cheap clotheshorse: the weirder the area, the better the deals. For example, when you go to the only thrift store in a college town, you can bet it will be overpriced and picked over. But a random little town in the Midwest often turns out to be a wasteland of fashion treasures, because the people who live there are shopping for clothes that look contemporary, not for ’80s holdovers, for example. Staten Island—from the Godfather mansions to the Wu Tang Clan shout outs—is New York’s randomest borough by a long shot. Ostensibly, it had the potential to be a retro jackpot.
After many hours riding buses around the island, I have learned a few things.
1) Buses should be avoided around 3 p.m., when they’re filled with teenagers lacking any sense of personal space (they will lean against you while discussing various sexual adventures and eating sour patch kids).
2) My theory about Staten Island thrift stores was a load of crap. There could be some hidden gems out there, but without a car, I was unable to find much to substantiate my own premise.
140 Bay Street
Everything Goes is the only thrift store across the Verrazzano anyone has ever heard of. I thought this might be largely a matter of its close proximity to the ferry and found the store didn’t quite live up to the rave reviews. It does have three floors, but they are not big. But if you find something you like, it will be cheap. I bought a red party dress (a LaCroix rip-off made of something shiny and unnatural) for $12 and a trench coat for $15.
1442 Castleton Street
If you are looking for a couch, especially a tan one with a “unique” shape, this is the place to go. The front of the store is dedicated to furniture that looks quite unused and has that special style—certainly not modern, but not retro either. Just . . . mushy. As you make your way toward the back, things get dingier. The clothing selection is not large, but you could get lucky. For me, success came in the Kiddie Korner, where I picked up a boy’s sweater vest and a brand new plaid button-down for a total of about $9.50.
1108 Forest Ave
The punny name of this shop well represents the humble, un-hip interior. And when I say un-hip, I don’t mean “so un-hip it just might be hip,” I mean old lady skirt suits and frumpy-yet-sequined dresses. There are also some board games, dolls, and straw hats. Because the store is run by Staten Island Mental Health Society, you might want to make a purchase as a way of donating. On your walk towards the bus stop, you can take your new grandma style one step further and purchase plastic slipcovers for all your couches at a specialty store down the street. Or take a step towards modern times with a visit to Air Wear Art Apparel, where you can get a unicorn airbrushed onto the butt of your panties. On Jewett Street, pop into Mystikal Wonders for some “spiritual products,” or just watch someone else get their tarot cards read (“The high priestess is telling you to go with your gut . . . This relationship is kaput!”)
Za Za Antiques
114 Port Richmond Ave
Oh, man, did I have high hopes, but this place looks like the leftovers were culled from the world’s craziest tag sales and dumped in from a helicopter. There are piles of old staplers and shelves full of VHS tapes. But where there’s a will, there’s a way: I purchased a figurine from the ’60s for $5. And when it was time to celebrate, there were several taquerias to choose from on Port Richmond, as well as furniture stores and Mexican markets.
Thrift Treasures and Things
1076 Castleton Ave
This store, though much, much cleaner that Za Za, shares its disheveled junkyard-style presentation. Granted, it opened recently and perhaps will undergo a significant transformation yet, but for now you can try to find your way through the rubble. Need a detached refrigerator door? Score!