In the East Bay, thrifting isn't just for college students and other people who can't afford to shop at “normal” stores. You'll find almost anyone in thrift stores, from business owners to restaurateurs to soccer moms. For the savvy thrift shopper, our local thrift stores offer a bounty of stunning items at a fraction of the price.
Brand new designer clothes with the original tags, quirky vintage pieces that suit your personal style, quality antique furniture, and original paintings by well-known artists all show up frequently; you just need to learn how to spot them. Thrift stores often change their hours, so call ahead to make sure a store is open. This list goes roughly from north to south. The pictures included are representative of what you might find and don't necessarily show these precise stores.
San Pablo Flea Market
Where: 6100 San Pablo Ave.
What You'll Find: Despite its name, this is a thrift store, not a flea market. Much of its merchandise is outside in a fenced yard area. As a result, this isn't the best place to shop for furniture—much of which ends up ruined in the rain. The inside is disorganized and cluttered, but there are often treasures. Prices are typically low, and you can often haggle to get them lower. It's perfect for the person who doesn't mind digging through a pile of junk to find a gem.
If you're here, take a little extra time to visit Emeryville's Goodwill location, which is just a few blocks north on San Pablo Ave.
Where: 5290 College Ave.
What You'll Find: This relatively small thrift shop, Bambino Thrift Shop, supports the Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland. The offerings include plenty of toys and children's clothing, along with jewelry, linens, art, furniture, and clothing for adults. It's particularly important to call ahead; hours are quite limited.
American Cancer Society Discovery Shop
Where: 127 41st St.
What You'll Find: Relatively high prices and a fairly small selection puts this shop in the same category as the Bambino Thrift Shop. You are quite likely to find beautiful items here, but you will pay for the privilege of not needing to sort through racks or shelves of junk.
Where: 601 Webster St.
What You'll Find: This Salvation Army is the place to go for inexpensive, high-quality furniture. There always seems to be some sale going on, meaning you can expect 20 to 50 percent off some particular category of items.
The higher-priced boutique section, located in a separate room, houses items that the staff members believe to be special or valuable. Don't worry; there are plenty of gems to be found in the main part of the store.
Where: 2925 International Blvd.
What You'll Find: Not only is this Goodwill location in infamous East Oakland – it's also on the even more infamous International Boulevard. This means two things: it's not particularly picked over, and it isn't for the faint of heart. This is the kind of place where you definitely don't want to leave any valuables visible in your car while you shop. If you make it in, though, you'll often be rewarded with stunning finds at astonishingly low prices.
Where: 16160 East 14th St., San Leandro, CA
What You'll Find: This thrift store isn't quite in Oakland, but it deserves a place on the list. It's huge, with fair to low prices, and one color tag goes on sale for 50 percent off every week. This store offers almost everything imaginable, from tools and furniture to art, clothes, and housewares.