Guest Best: Allison Kaplan
Yes, Goodwill has cleaned up its thrift stores—they're bright, organized, and don't smell (much). Still, those bargain barns are a far cry from this spiffy resale boutique just off Excelsior Boulevard. With its gleaming hardwood floors, neat racks of discounted Theory dresses, Coach bags, and brand-new bridal gowns with tags still intact, Second Debut is thrift shopping evolved. You'd never guess this was a Goodwill store, and that's just the point. The charity realized it had been practically giving away Seven jeans by tossing them in with the pile of Lees, and Goodwill wised up to the opportunity. Now, the chicest, most current donations are plucked for display at this store. The deals are still great, the atmosphere is inviting, and no digging is required to find quality apparel, accessories, and shoes for men and women. Plus, there's a considerable art department where framed paintings sell for less than $100. Employees are sales associates, not cashiers, and events are frequent, from seasonal previews to special-occasion dress shows. A bargain shopper could get very spoiled here. Despite the boutique trappings, revenue from Second Debut, as with the Goodwill stores, supports education, workforce development, and employment services for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.
Allison Kaplan is a St. Paul Pioneer Press shopping columnist, host of Shop Girls on FM107.1, and the founder of AliShops.com, the Insider's Guide to Twin Cities Shopping.