October 5, 2023 | FEATURES | By Brett LeVan
If there is one thing my family does without fail when traveling or visiting our favorite towns, it’s thrifting. This is perhaps why most of my wardrobe consists of cherished secondhand thrift store finds and well-worn, faded Levi’s jeans.
This year’s first Block Break was a much-needed detox spent with my mom after a demanding couple of weeks back at Colorado College. Hanger-by-hanger, I imagined possibilities, stepped into an excessive amount of denim, and now treasure many of my last-minute try-ons. If anything helps after a few stressful weeks, its scrounging through racks of secondhand clothes, channeling good fortune.
Thrifting can be an act of hope. Every item in a thrift store is there because someone somewhere believed it deserved another chance.
Here is the recap of my retail therapy thrifting in nearby towns:
Thrift Horse, Salida – 325 W Rainbow Blvd., Salida
Free the Monkey Consignment – 222 F St., Salida
Ruby Blues – 102 N F St., Salida
SALIDA THRIFT – 944 E Rainbow Blvd., Salida
New Horizon Thrift Store (Pueblo location) – 2930 N Elizabeth St., Pueblo
Goodwill – 3610 Dillon Drive, Pueblo
Thursday of Block Break, my mom and I drove to Salida, a town my family visits often. Our favorite thrift stores are Free the Monkey and Ruby Blues, but we also tried Thrift Horse and SALIDA THRIFT this time.
Thrift Horse is a strikingly well-organized store with carefully packaged stacks of cards, dishes, jewelry, and more. Just inside the door is a sticker table with hundreds to sort through and a sign “Please be kind to our sticker table.” I passed all of these and went directly to a rack of incredibly well-worn and ornate Christmas sweaters and vests. Oh, I love vests.
The selection was impressive with awful tooling and Christmas ornaments, but the nostalgia these sweaters brought me was unmatched. Once I got past the Christmas sweaters, I found an exciting number of small baby tee shirts and early 2000 tank tops, as well as a pair of old Gloria Vanderbilt jeans my Mimi was excited about me wearing. A rack of Halloween costumes tempted me, and, regretfully, I didn’t search through it. At least I haven’t yet.
Next, we ventured to Free the Monkey which never disappoints. Mom and I struck gold here. I found a lightly worn blue Marmot button up coat as well as an impeccable brown suede vest, white corduroy bootleg pants, and a perfect zip-up vest made by a Salida brand I hadn’t heard of before.
The atmosphere was and always is perfect in Free the Monkey. There was a beautiful and gentle German Shepard who hung mostly around the comfortable dressing rooms. Country music played quietly overhead, and when we checked out the owner said it was the last day for the employee who selected that day’s playlist. The store owner was clearly pleased when Mom mentioned how much we cherish Free the Monkey.
The next stop of the thrift trip was Ruby Blues. Though many items are more vintage than thrift, I never leave empty handed. The prices are often quite high, but the inventory is insane. I found a beautiful pair of dark, emerald green corduroy Dickies pants, and a Patagonia zip-up coat with old worn zippers and pockets located in the middle front rather than at the typical hand placement. I could feel the quality in the coat before I even put it on. I passed up a Melanzana skirt, which I am still regretting. Ruby Blues also has an incredible atmosphere, and every time I visit, I am met with the same calming energy.
SALIDA THRIFT, seemingly part antique store, was disappointing clothes-wise. It’s a new store, so we felt the need to check it out. It’s easily five times the size it appears to be based on the storefront, and we left with a couple turn of the century ink wells that, when cleaned up, were perfect vases for my Mimi’s birthday table. We left Salida after four thrift stores, feeling successful but tired.
On Friday, Mom and I went to Pueblo with my grandparents. We started the day at New Horizon Thrift Store on Elizabeth Street. Mom had told me about this chain of thrift stores, resembling Goodwill, but her descriptions couldn’t prepare me for the experience. Right inside the doors of the Pueblo location are packed shelves of food, soft drinks, and bulk items as well as pickled hard-boiled eggs, pickled radishes, and other weird spicy concoctions which to me were quite unappealing yet fascinating.
Past the entrance was a Walmart-sized area of clothing, home goods, and furniture. I tried on more than 20 pairs of pants, and I am not exaggerating. I went row by row finding old Wranglers, Levi’s, Dickies, and other well-known brands. I prefer my jeans to fit loose, so I have gotten pretty good at looking through all the sizes instead of just my size, as well as looking in the men’s section.
I found a few perfectly worn jeans and another impeccable Marmot vest which smelled like cigarette smoke, but I was hopeful the wash could make it new again, and it did. As we were leaving, we stopped by the sweater section where Mom and I found last-minute treasures. Mine is a New England golf Sperry-style pullover.
Finally, we went to the Goodwill in Pueblo. My favorite Goodwill is in Woodland Park, but I was pleased to discover this store was also incredibly well-stocked. We soon found out why. Every Goodwill in Colorado, except one location in Denver, has permanently closed their dressing rooms due to vandalism, drugs, and theft. I was quite surprised. Rather than an inviting dressing room area, customers are greeted with closure signs.
Customers crowd around mirrors that remain outside the dressing room doors. Halloween costumes had been placed in front of the doors, too. While Mom and I both rarely buy anything without trying it on first, we were on such a thrifting high that our morals went out the door. I found a never worn, new with original tags, pair of salmon-colored Dickies, as well as a pair of vibrantly colored pink jeans and Mom, too, found two pairs of jeans, one pair that fit and one pair that didn’t. Unfortunately, when returning items, customers can only receive instore credit rather than full reimbursement. While purchasing items without trying them on can be risky, especially when thrifting, Mom and I both felt like our finds were worth it.
A few store trends I noticed while thrifting over block break included signs around each store threatening customers if they shoplifted, and no bags of any kind were allowed in the stores. “If you don’t like my policy, go on to the next store,” Ruby Blues’ sign read in bold letters.
Many of the thrift stores, especially in Salida, are privately owned local businesses and it is evident that theft has been an ongoing problem. We also noticed that many of the more coveted items were hung on the walls for display or placed at the end of racks for customers to easily notice, but we also discovered high-end goods hidden on the racks packed in tightly between fast fashion.
I always say that good thrifting is an art form, and I believe it more and more every time my family goes on thrifting sprees. Not only is thrifting a fun way to bond, but I’m also excited to give a second life to so many treasures. My wardrobe is mostly thrifted, and I hope that never changes.