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Collage of thrift stores in Chicago

Chicago offers a wealth of options for second-hand clothing — from large resale outlets and local chain discounters to higher-end vintage and consignment shops.

A beginner’s guide to Chicago's second-hand clothing stores

New to thrifting? Let April Tondelli be your guide.

A social studies teacher at Von Steuben High School on the Northwest Side, Tondelli is the faculty advisor for the school’s fledgling thrifting club, founded last fall. Since thrifting is also a personal hobby, she created a guide to her favorite destinations — a mix of discount thrift outlets, vintage shops and higher-end consignment stores. Her list, also mapped below, is a great place to start for anyone dipping a toe into second-hand shopping. Tondelli’s picks are clustered on the North Side, so we rounded out the list with a few reputable stores in other parts of the city.

Check out the map view of the stores listed here. You’ll see that Andersonville, Bucktown/Wicker Park, Lincoln Park and Pilsen offer concentrations of places to go — convenient for all-day shopping until you drop.

Did we miss your favorite thrifting gem? Tell us about it at web@wbez.org; subject line “thrifting guide.”


THRIFT STORES

The Brown Elephant (5404 N. Clark St.; Andersonville)

April says: “Eclectic range of items including home goods, men’s and women’s clothes. All proceeds benefit LGBTQ health and fund care for the uninsured and under-insured at Howard Brown Health. This location has lots of furniture and is in a cool old movie theater.”

Other Brown Elephant locations:

  • 3020 N. Lincoln Ave.; Lake View
  • 217 Harrison St.; Oak Park

Buffalo Exchange (5252 N. Clark St.; Andersonville)

April says: “Some vintage, tons of fast fashion, but if you can find a designer piece, it is priced much lower than consignment shops. They also buy clothes on the spot but usually have long wait times.” Buffalo Exchange has a second Chicago-area location in Wicker Park (1478 N. Milwaukee Ave.)

Goodwill Store & Donation Center (1201 W. Washington Blvd.; West Loop)

April says: “Second-best all around thrift store in Chicago. Burberry, Prada, Air Jordans are behind the counter for $200 or more. Well organized by size. Good for housewares, office supplies, toys, puzzles and games. Goodwill stores around Chicago get donations from Target, so you will find many new in-box items. Great men’s section as well. Easy drive-up/contactless donation. Over 30 suburban Chicago locations. All fairly similar.” Goodwill also has a Beverly location (9321 S. Western Ave.)

Ragstock (1459 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Wicker Park)

April says: “Chicago institution. Lots of Halloween outfits/costume party-type vintage.”

Other Ragstock locations:

  • 812 W. Belmont Ave.; Lake View
  • 835 N. Michigan Ave.; Streeterville
  • 5 Woodfield Mall, Schaumburg

The Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center (2270 N. Clybourn Ave.; Lincoln Park)

April says: “Best overall thrift store in Chicago. Salvation Army has many locations around Chicago that are smaller and more disorganized, but this is their flagship. It has a ‘boutique’ section up front with men’s and women’s items. The best items are behind the counter. And the shop has the biggest furniture section in Chicago and a large kids section. Also note: Prices are higher than other area thrift stores; easy drive up/contactless donation.”

Other Salvation Army locations:

  • 2151 W. Devon Ave.; West Ridge
  • 4315 N. Broadway; Buena Park
  • 2941 N. Central Ave.; Belmont Cragin
  • 4052 W. Grand Ave.; Humboldt Park
  • 6434 W. 63rd St.; Clearing
  • 16 suburban locations

Village Discount Outlet (4027 N. Kedzie Ave.; Irving Park East)

April says: “Local Chicago chain. Cheapest of all thrift stores listed, but also the most disorganized. ‘Special’ items are behind the counter or up high so you have to ask for them. The ‘White tag’ section has better items (with higher prices). If your time is limited, I usually just look here. The store also has books, toys, housewares but no furniture.”

Other Village Discount locations:

  • 2032 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Bucktown
  • 4898 N. Clark St.; Uptown
  • 4635 N. Elston Ave.; Mayfair
  • 2043 W. Roscoe St.; North Center
  • 3301 W. Lawrence Ave.; Albany Park
  • 6419 S. Kedzie Ave.; Chicago Lawn
  • 2514 W. 47th St.; Brighton Park
  • 4020 W. 26th St.; Little Village
  • 2515 Chicago Rd.; Chicago Heights

Unique (6560 W. Fullerton Ave.; Montclare)

April says: “Unique is part of Savers, an international thrift chain. They are organized by size, and all their locations have a good selection of home goods, books and great toy/game sections for kids. Better items are behind the counter.” This is a for-profit operation so the money you spend doesn’t support a nonprofit. But donations of used clothing and household items benefit Vietnam Veterans of America, according to Unique’s website.

Other Unique locations

  • 3748 N. Elston Ave.; Irving Park
  • 3000 S. Halsted St.; Bridgeport

VINTAGE

Kokorokoko (1323 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Wicker Park)

April says: “Focus on 80s/90s vintage. Hip-hop/streetwear vibes.”

Pilsen Vintage (1430 W. 18th St.; Pilsen)

This store in Pilsen — opened in 2009 by owner Paul Guizar — started out selling a mix of older and regular second-hand clothing but has since become exclusively vintage. According to Maggie Reynoso, the store’s manager, the current selection of men’s and women’s attire is strongest from the ’80s and ’90s, but you can find styles going back to the 1950s. “Older stuff from the 2000s is becoming vintage,” Reynoso says. “Denim tank tops, lower rise jeans and skirts.” Think Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and boy bands. The store also curates vintage housewares (dishes, vases, lamps) and a selection of vinyl 45s and LPs.

store B vintage (1472 N. Milwaukee Ave.; Wicker Park)

April says: “Great vintage. Many eras represented.”


CONSIGNMENT

C&J Collections (1932 S. Halsted St., Ste. #502; Pilsen)

This online women’s consignment shop is open at its Pilsen showroom Wednesday through Saturday. You can also book a private appointment.

Elliott Consignment (2465 N. Lincoln Ave.; Lincoln Park)

April says: “Local, family-owned consignment shop. Good place to browse and consign. Maybe not the trendiest, but great work wear and high-quality items you can wear for years. Includes both men’s and women’s clothes.” Elliott Consignment also has a Lake View location (3015 N. Broadway).

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