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The good, the bad, the joys, of thrift stores

| May 13, 2020 12:17 PM

By BILL BULEY

Staff Writer

My father, God rest his soul, introduced me to the world of thrift stores.

And this became both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, because I came across many great deals and made some extraordinary finds for a few bucks.

A curse, because throughout my life I have cringed at buying anything new — to this day I can’t shake the belief that used is the only way to go.

Books, DVDs, furniture, kitchen appliances, clothes, garden tools, toys, picture frames — all that and more, I bought at thrift stores. Much of what I own, have owned and will own, was purchased used.

Even on those days I didn’t actually buy anything, it was the thrill of the chase, the adventure, the possibilities, that made thrift store shopping an addiction.

Some people spend their time seeks buried treasures of gold or diamonds. I have for four decades been on an endless quest for used running shoes in good condition. And I have found them. I collect old running shoes from the 60s and 70s. Pairs of Adias, Nike, Brooks, Saucony and Tiger all sit on shelves in my home.

My coveted Michael Jordan collection of books, VHS tapes, posters, figures, jerseys, games, a locker, all came from thrift stores.

Even when my wife and I went to Ireland, a land of inspiring beauty, history and most important, pubs with pints of Guinness, finding a thrift store was near the top of my “must see” list, right there with Cliffs of Mohr. I must admit, when we finally found one in Cavan, I was greatly disappointed. Nothing but old stuff I could easily find in America.

So, you can imagine my dismay when all thrift stores were shuttered as part of Gov. Brad Little’s March 25 directive that nonessential businesses close. There was a withdrawal of sorts. A bewilderment of what to do on Saturday afternoons. For the first time, when my wife and I went to visit our son and his wife in Spokane, I could not venture inside Value Village.

So, imagine my delight Monday when I walked into the Good Samaritan Thrift Store.

Or my joy on Saturday when I found the doors to the Goodwill and the Hospice of North Idaho thrift store open again. This is what heaven will be like.

I came away with more decorations and art for my front and back yards and even a pair of jeans for $5.99.

My father would have been proud and I eagerly told him of my finds.

But my father, I must admit, fell victim to the one great temptation of thrift stores: Buying all sorts of stuff you don’t need, will never use, because it’s just too good of a deal to pass on. And, he compounded it by refusing to give away anything that, even if broken and cluttering a room, might some day miraculously fix itself. When he died, he left behind many nonworking CD/radio players, still with $3.99 or $4.99 stickers still on them.

To this day, I can’t enter a thrift store without thinking of my father. I remember his smile, the delight, when he discovered something that would soon fill a space in his home, whether it was a record album, a cassette tape, a book or a beer mug. He would hold whatever it was he found up high, like an athlete holding up a trophy. Victory was his.

Of all his things there were only a few I kept. I’m sure he found them in thrift stores: A Notre Dame cap, a copy of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” by Erich Maria Remarque, and a Beatles 1967-70 cassette.

While my father surely bought a lot of used stuff he didn’t need, he discovered something else in thrift stores. Something intangible. It will not break. It won’t wear out. It will not clutter a home.

It doesn’t even cost 99 cents.

So, what is this priceless treasure?

Happiness.

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Bill Buley is assistant managing editor of the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached at (208) 416-5110.