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The Secondhand Solution

Michael Davis Photos

Pregnancy brings joy, nausea sometimes, and plenty of reasons to go shopping. For many parents and parents-to-be, the secondhand or consignment shop becomes a regular source for their shopping list.

“I think it’s the only way to go,” says new mother of twins Christi Jureller, of Baldwinsville. “The equipment is so expensive” and used for such a short amount of time. “Why buy new? It’s not like you’re trying to make a fashion statement.”

Well, some folks are, but secondhand shops stock current, in-fashion clothing and baby equipment, too. Sometimes it’s new, most of the time it’s not; but it can be found for less than retail. The important point is to look: “If you come in once a week, you would find stuff,” says Kelly Johnson, owner of Wear It Again Kids at 5501 Bartell Road in Brewerton. If you only stop by once or twice a year, items that appeal to you or your children may not be available in the store then.

“Think of it as a treasure hunt,” Johnson advises. Devoted resale shoppers can usually recount their great buys: Lands’ End snow boots for $7, a Gund like-new stuffed animal for $2, and a three-piece Gymboree outfit, two pieces with tags on them from the store, for $14. Sometimes just finding a pair of jeans or sweatpants that a child will agree to wear is a triumph. Or that white dress shirt a boy may need once a year for the school’s orchestra concert.

“There’s great stuff,” notes Amenda Laporte, while shopping at Wear It Again Kids recently. The mother of a 10-month-old son, who lives in Bernhards Bay, says, “There’s junk and then you find something that no one’s ever used and it’s 75 cents instead of $35.”

“My philosophy is: If it’s not doing you any good, you may as well make a little something for it,” Johnson says. She splits the sale price with her consigners on a 50-50 basis.

Patty Battolo, who owns Curtain Climbers, located at 1201 W. Genesee St. in Syracuse, says resale buyers “can save a ton of money!” She estimates shoppers save about 75 percent off retail prices when buying at a consignment shop. For example, she says that infant sleepers sell for about $15 at major stores in the area. At her shop, they are priced at $3.99.

One mom noted that the reasonable prices in most consignment shops allow for some “extras,” like a $7 shiny purple raincoat with fake fur trim that was two sizes too big for her daughter. But when the mother took it out of the closet on a rainy day two years later, her daughter was thrilled.

Others buy books, especially the expensive hardcover ones, which can be quite reasonably priced the second time around. Unused coloring books usually are a staple in these stores and make great time-fillers and extra gifts for children who stop by unexpectedly. Remember to check out the toys and games, too.

Jureller advises going with an agenda. It’s better “if you go with specific things in mind because if you don’t, you may get sidetracked or overwhelmed with other things,” she says after a particularly successful visit to Jack ’n Jill, located on Route 31 in Cicero.

Some stores organize their wares by department, just like “firsthand” shops do. Curtain Climbers, which only sells items for children, organizes two rooms devoted to specific items of baby furniture and another for toys. Parents should not worry about safety issues with toys or furniture, Battolo says. A children’s store is required to check on all product safety recalls, and car seats can only be sold if they are less than 5 years old.

Sweet Pea, arranged in several rooms of an old church in Manlius, at 315 E. Seneca St., features a room devoted to maternity clothes and another with outerwear for mothers and kids, in addition to the main rooms with children’s clothing and shoes.

Salvation Army and Rescue Mission Thrifty Shopper stores use the one-big-room approach. Charity store shoppers should check out their regular sale days and hours. Some feature coupons in the newspaper, offer half-price days each month or advertise bonus sales during evening hours. Note, however, that thrift stores sell donated items; resale and consignment shops sell items that they choose to sell. The condition of the items is usually better in the latter.

Johnson points out that stores like hers can provide a needed service to families. “When I was a stay-at-home mom, you’ve got the one income and you’re doing everything you can to make ends meet.” Getting children’s shoes, clothing and outerwear at a consignment shop can help the family budget.

Look for sales and markdowns at these shops, too. Also, resale shops tend to follow the fashion seasons, so summer items are definitely out on the racks now. But when department stores have put away their snow pants in March or bathing suits in late August, resale shops will still offer them—unless they are sold out. Often a quick trip into a small consignment shop can save time and money for a busy parent who doesn’t want to venture to the mall or through a large department store.

Some shoppers see resale shops as helping the environment; they are part of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle movement. Those with extra clothes get to reduce; others get to reuse their items; and it all contributes to recycling.

Johnson encourages reluctant resale shoppers to give the consignment and thrift stores a try. “There’s so much stigma. A lot of times it takes them so much to walk through the doors,” Johnson says. But “once they come in,” they’re sold.                      ■

Eileen Gilligan, a mother of two, lives in Baldwinsville.


Hints for Effective Shopping

1. Visit often.
Keep an eye out for newly arrived stock in sizes you want.

2. Look for new tags on clothing.
You can walk along a rack of clothes and pick out the ones with tags from their original stores still intact. These may offer some of the best buys in the shop.

3. Know your prices and your limits.
Have a good idea what clothes at Gymboree or The Children’s Place sell
for at regular and sale prices. When you see them at a resale shop, you’ll know whether it’s really a good deal.

4. Seek bigger sizes for brands of clothing you and your children prefer.
Hanna Andersson, Lands’ End and Gymboree, for example, have reputations for long-lasting style, durability and colors that don’t fade. Buy them when you see them and you’ll be prepared for the next season or two.

5. Tell the shop owners what you’re looking for.
They know their stock better than anyone and can often direct you to the right rack. Let them know if you need a big-ticket item like a crib, stroller or high chair; some keep a waitlist and contact customers when the items come in.

6. Keep an open mind.
It’s more fun if you’re shopping with more than just one child or one item in mind. Today’s find might fit a toddler nephew, but next month’s treasure might be just right for your child.

7. If you take your kids with you, remember these shops are not playgrounds.
Plan to let your child pick out a cheap book or a $2 toy, if that fits your
budget. Children like to be successful shoppers, too.

8. Go pregnant!
Don’t wait until your baby arrives to visit a children’s consignment or thrift store. They usually feature maternity wear that you will grow out of faster than kids grown out of shoes. And the prices are way below retail, especially for maternity dress clothes, which often are only worn once or twice by any owner.
—Eileen Gilligan

© Family Times: The Parenting Guide of Central New York