There are two kinds of thrift stores: There’s the “joy of the hunt” — cue crowded Goodwill racks stuffed with clothes — or the curated shop, where a designer-label jacket might be sold.
Milwaukee is loaded with options to score used furniture, home décor, clothing, fashion accessories, kids’ toys, books and more. Here’s where to go:
Swanky Seconds specializes in higher-end, brand-name labels for women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories, such as Kate Spade, Chanel, Anthropologie’s labels, Patagonia, Alexander McQueen and Lilly Pulitzer. You’re also not going to find any stains or rips on these clothes, as they are good as new. Pro tip: Cleaning out your closet? Items can be sold on consignment in exchange for cash.
R.I.P. to the Humboldt and Bay View stores, but thank goodness ReThreads lives on in its Shorewood location. The vibe here is both retro and modern. In other words, you can score a cropped corduroy jacket from the ‘70s and a cute J. Crew dress. Men’s and women’s clothing is carried — no kids’ — and the shoe collection in back is worth a peek, too, as is the array of vintage clutches and costume jewelry up front. Like Swanky Seconds, ReThreads also invites you to clean out your closet for store credit.
Alive and Fine
Open only for a few months now along Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View, Alive and Fine is the kind of place to shop if you need a genuine 1960s-era floral dress for your Hawaii trip or vintage salt-and-pepper shakers that nobody else on your block owns. Clothing is heavily curated and you can tell, just in one visit, there is a true passion on behalf of owner Ashley Smith for decades gone by, particularly the 1940s through the 1990s.
Brookfield & Greenfield
While the target customer for Plato’s Closet tends to be teen girls (based on the fashion-forward brands carried like American Eagle, Guess and Young & Reckless), but it is also a great spot to score clothes if you’re a grown woman. There are two stores in the Milwaukee area: Brookfield and Greenfield. And like Swanky Seconds and ReThreads, don’t be shy about swapping your clothing for pieces you like better.
locations throughout Milwaukee and surrounding suburbs
There are currently 18 Goodwill stores in the Milwaukee area—plus Retique in the Third Ward, which is uber-focused on higher-end clothing for men and women, plus household décor, books and jewelry. The best stores for designer duds are in the ‘burbs (Pewaukee and the two Brookfield stores), but the West Capitol Drive store runs a close second for its stash of decorative arts (remember that woman who found the Alexander Calder print worth $9,000 with a $12 price tag?) and men’s/women’s clothing (not only in abundance but also representing designers). The used-book selection here is also the largest in the area, and it’s not uncommon to find titles released only within the last three years.
This is the kind of store that functions as an indoor, year-round estate sale because that’s, in fact, what the owners do: they clear out houses. If you’re looking to drop $500 on a used dining table set, or a funky oil painting, or an Asian antique, then Chattel Changers is your place. It’s like the entire North Shore emptied out its mansions and brought their belongings here. In the basement is lower-priced items like vases, frames, dinnerware and other home décor more suitable for apartment living (read: smaller). Eye each tag carefully, because the price drops the longer it’s been for sale.
South Side, St. Francis
There are two Value Village stores in the Milwaukee area—South Layton Boulevard on Milwaukee’s South Side, and on East Layton Avenue in St. Francis. This is the place to be if you like the hunt, because things are minimally organized or curated. That said, there is always a rack in front of the store stocked with professional sports teams’ clothing, in case you want to nab a Packers shirt. And you’ll have no problem walking out with a new-to-you shirt, shoes or costume jewelry.