Secondhand America: Village Thrift Store

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 tiptoes 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.

I have an irrational emotional attachment to the Village Thrift Store in Laurel, Maryland—it’s hard not to, since I paid the place regular visits throughout high school and during breaks from college. Amongst friends from my hometown, it's always been considered one of the best secondhand shopping sources around. Happily the huge, warehouse-esque space still holds this title—and its location between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore can’t be beat.

Village Thrift is organized pretty well, and it’s rather big—so allow yourself plenty of time to linger over everything. The shoes alone are a reason to travel here: amongst the rows (and rows) of options, I found pairs from Ferragamo and Donna Karan, both under $8, and I’m still cursing my feet for being too big for the gorgeous heeled Robert Clergerie booties I found for $9. There are plenty of boring shoes, too, but these gems prove that it pays to dig. The color-organized wall of purses is another reason Village Thrift totally rules—while there are plenty of designer imposters, I totally scored. In the past, this shop would reserve brands like Coach for its “high-end” section (more on that later), but today they left a vintage Willis on the racks priced at $9. I also found a cool leather bag with a gold owl embellishment, and a leather tote with the initials “EW” embossed on it. Don’t only focus on accessories, though, because the clothes are great. Village Thrift has such a wealth of cute ‘90s velvet dresses it's embarrassing, and the racks upon racks of button-up blouses are a can’t-miss attraction.

You can mostly skip Village Thrift’s “high-end” section—a weird place where plastic Victoria’s Secret promotional bags cost more than vintage Coach—but around the corner is the small-but-mighty jewelry section. Every time I take a peek, I end up scoring a handful of great necklaces, pins and earrings. Beyond that, I left this legendary thrift shop with a pair of men's velvet PJs, a cool color-blocked dress and a cute patterned top. All in all, I spent $75—but considering that’s what you might spend on eBay or similar sites for just one good vintage Coach bag, I’d say I made out like a bandit.

Freelance writer Alison Baitz (who also writes for Bust and Refinery29) is so excited that she gets to visit thrift stores and antique malls as part of her job.

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