Secondhand America: Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
America's wealth of secondhand stores is not exactly a secret, but it it can be pretty intimidating in its vastness. Follow our writer as she tip-toes through junk, browses the shelves of antique malls and bargains with vintage brokers, reporting back on just what makes our resale shops so damn good.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a place whose reputation precedes it—and when you see the insane coastal views, you'll believe the hype. If you think that thrifting here would be amazing, you'd be correct. Just south of the town's main square is a trifecta of great secondhand shops, which you should definitely take advantage of if you can tear yourself away from the beach.
Start your shopping adventure at the SPCA Benefit Shop, a large-but-cozy complex where you're as likely to encounter a loving pet as you are a sales associate. Clothes-wise, only coats and pantsuits will run you more than $10—almost everything else (tops, sweaters, jeans) hovers in the $5 range. As there is a dedicated higher-end and higher-priced section ("The Boutique"), there are some great major-label pieces to be found: a plaid Marc Jacobs coat, a Banana Republic fisherman cardigan, and a DKNY sweater. The book section is as big as the library of my dreams, and there are plenty of little knickknacks to round out the stock.
Once you're done with the SPCA, walk across the street (yes, literally) to the Yellow Brick Road Benefit Shop, a decidedly airy shop with serious high-end appeal. What's fun are the themed displays that dot the shop, including a full table setting complete with fake flowers. Housewares are the draw: you can go pricey with gorgeous serving pieces that will run you anywhere from $75 to $35, or cheapish with lovely dishes and cream pots for around $6. The book section here is also massive—as evidenced by the need for a diorama-like guide and discount boxes outside—and there are tons of other great pieces, including clothing and accessories.
Last but not least is the Joining Hands Benefit Shop, which is technically next to the SPCA shop but we saved it for the end—and for good reason. At this stuffed-to-the-brim, intimate shop, the real thrill here is both the atmosphere and the goods (oh, and the complimentary coffee and cookie station doesn't hurt). My best treasures were found here: some champagne-ready vessels bearing my own etched-on monogram. I had to stop myself from buying the whole lot. My next-best find? Incredible mesh leather T-strap sandals, which I wore to the ground after purchasing. I left about $18 poorer but with excellent pieces.
Can thrifting be as good as the beach? In Carmel, the answer is yes.
Freelance writer Alison Baitz (who has also written for Bust and Refinery29 among others) is so excited that she got to visit thrift stores and antique malls as part of her job.
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