Thrifting has become quite a popular hobby for many, and the Tri-Cities area is blessed with a number of great thrift stores. Over the next few weeks, the Tri-Cities Events Examiner will be visiting some of these thrift shops and reporting back to you about what we find. This week we are focusing on the Holston Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 750 East Main Street in Kingsport, Tennessee. This thrift store and salvage warehouse benefit the Holston Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to build homes for low-income families in the area.
While many people truly rely on thrift stores to provide clothing and other needs for their families in hard times, there is a growing core of thrift store shoppers who really love the thrill of the hunt. This group is always on the lookout for unique and wonderful items for their home or wardrobe (and accessories) at a bargain price, and you will meet many of these people waiting to get in The Restore when they open the doors. The ReStore has a wide range of items to appeal to all these folks as well as another distinct clientele who visit the warehouse that sells salvage building materials behind the store.
The ReStore is only open on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. As mentioned above, there are usually people waiting to get in the door when they open to see the latest treasures. When you walk in the door, the first thing you see is a beautiful, rare antique piano that was donated to the store.
There are no shopping carts here, so if you have a baby, a stroller would be important. It is even awkward just to try to shop with the arm basket they provide if you purchase a large amount of items. Most of the time, people ask them to keep some of their purchases behind the counter.
There is usually very nice used furniture available, and some of the pieces are antiques. There are endless shelves of household items, both decorative and functional. More often than not, many of the items are tagged with almost ridiculous prices. I have overheard management explain that their pricing is not to be compared with yard sales, and it’s surely not! Yet, there are some bargains tucked in between the other items that have been sitting there for months.
As far as the pricing in the building materials warehouse out back, I would not know how to evaluate that. I don’t have a salvage experience to compare prices to, but they do have an interesting array of light fixtures, sinks, toilets, doors, etc… I don’t frequent the salvage area that much, so let’s head back inside!
A toy department holds a wading pool full of bits and pieces with which you can stuff a bag for a dollar. If you collect certain character toys you may find something here. You can also pick up a few little things to have for the kids who drop by your house unexpectedly. I got some balls for the dog here.
There are nice clothing items hanging on racks priced between .50 and $5.00. There are also tables of clothing that are currently “Stuff a bag for a dollar,” but are usually priced at a quarter a piece. Some of these items are stained or ripped, but there are also some nice things to be found down in the piles of clothing. It is fun just to dig through, and you really don’t know what you will find. Some days, however, the clothing options are slip, and there is nothing new there.
In the back part of the store, you will find a large selection of books and magazines of all kinds. They have been running a sale on books since before Christmas at a quarter each. Employees have indicated that the clothing and books are not popular with those who have to stock and straighten the items. One even mentioned the possibility of doing away with the two departments, but I surely hope they don’t.
There are lamps, technology items, and almost anything you can mention in this back room with the books. They always have a seasonal area with decorations for the current holiday. Sometimes, if you don’t look closely in the metal shelves you will miss something. The creative shopper may find all matter of craft and sewing supplies stuffed into a sandwich bag for mere change. For instance, I found a bag of beautiful metallic ribbon for Christmas stuffed in a bag for only .50 cents.
They are constantly putting new items out. When you hear one of the elderly volunteers pushing a rickety cart through the warehouse door, you know that new items are coming. Some of the nicer ones don’t seem to mind to stop and let you look at what they have.
This leads to an unpleasant subject, but true nonetheless. Some of the people who work at the Holston Habitat Restore, whether paid or volunteer, need a crash course on how to treat customers in a retail setting. There are a few ladies who have the most condescending attitude that I have ever seen in even the most upscale shopping venues. At times, they come across as just plain rude.
When you check out, they ask you if you want to donate your change to the Habitat for Humanity, and sometimes it feels quite uncomfortable. One time, I responded that I donate a lot of money in there, and that my husband has no idea how much I “donate.” The curt response I received was that if you receive something in return, it is not a donation. They often seem to treat customers as though they are suspicious of them. I have seen this manifest in many ways while I have been shopping at the Restore.
Holston Habitat for Humanity is a great organization, and they build homes for people who could not afford their own home any other way. However, the thrift store must be judged on its own accord. It is a great place to shop, but there are some issues here that should be addressed. There is a new store opening soon in Johnson City, according to the Johnson City Press. Hopefully, they will get the kinks worked out before then.