Consider the Bay Area secondhand central. It's a cyclical market fueled by San Francisco's convergence of rent-ravaged bargain-hunters and enterprising junk purgers. More than Goodwill or traditional thrift stores, buy/sell/trade chains like Crossroads Trading Co., Buffalo Exchange and Wasteland are the top spots in the city to unearth affordable recycled fashion. It’s also worth scouring vintage clothing stores for bargains. For deals on used housewares, furniture and appliances, the main repository is the Mission, including spots like Community Thrift, Mission Thrift and Thrift Town (though the best of this trio has been the subject of much debate, our loyalties lie with the latter). For the holy grail of salvage shops, however, you have to venture across the bridge to Berkeley's Urban Ore, a 30,000-square-foot industrial building filled with reclaimed furniture, jewelry, electronics, art, appliances and more. Here are San Francisco’s five best thrift stores for clothing, cookware and home furnishings.
San Francisco’s best thrift stores
Wasteland has long been a Haight Street standby, and the secondhand store reflects the sensibility and style of the surrounding neighborhood. It's split into vintage (largely from the '60s to '90s) and “vintage inspired” clothing from the aughts on. The buyers here are more discerning than at Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads down the street, resulting in higher-end brands and slightly higher prices. The modern section is aggressively trendy: denim jumpsuits, neon '80s prints, grungy plaid, and the like, but much of the vintage stock can be incorporated into a modern wardrobe without feeling overtly costume-y. The gently worn shoes are mostly contemporary (no retro kitten heels or satin pumps to be seen) and in good condition. It's a cavernous store compared to some of its neighbors, and those on the hunt can easily devote an afternoon flipping through dozens of racks. The staff maintains a coolly disaffected air; you're here for the low-priced gems, not the friendly service.
Crossroads may be a national consignment chain, but the Bay Area is its hub: It boasts four shops in the city proper and two more in the East Bay. The “recycled” fashion is gently used, with most prices ranging from $10 to $50. Though there are plenty of fast fashion discards from Forever 21 and H&M, you'll also find designer duds in the mix. The clothes are loosely sorted by type: jeans, tops, pants, skirts and jackets. (The denim section, in particular, yields some steals.) This isn't a fashion graveyard, by any means. The store's staff buys with an eye for seasonal trends.
More fashion-conscious than a typical thrift store and with a higher turnover rate, this buy/sell/trade consignment shop is Crossroads Trading Co.'s closest competitor. Don't be surprised if there's a line of tote bag–hauling locals looking to sell their clothes while the staff combs through someone else's stash. The buyers are trend-focused here; they don't take accept any old ratty T-shirt or stained pair of jeans. Men's and women's racks are separated into adjacent rooms and are filled with everything from silk blouses to leather jackets. (Items are also sorted by size, a nice touch for secondhand shop.) But, unlike Crossroads, footwear is the main attraction here. Shoes are stacked seven shelves high and run the full length of the store.
This is not your typical cramped, hipster-packed Mission thrift store: The merchandise—one of the largest selections in the city—sprawls across two stories. There are clothes for women and men on the first floor, and the shoe assortment is particularly extensive. But the real attraction here is the housewares. Head upstairs to the kitchen area for cookware, electric appliances, aprons, dishes, Tupperware and more. The art is offbeat—many come shopping for the frames, then ditch the work within—displayed alongside a reasonably priced record collection. (Most merchandise here falls comfortably under $15, and the stash is replenished regularly.) The best selection can be found at the beginning of each month, when those moving from the surrounding area into new apartments donate their surplus lights, furniture, books and décor.