5 cool places to find thrift shop treasure

Nostalgia, on Wickenden St. in Providence. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois

I inherited my love of thrifting from my mom. Some of my best and earliest memories are of the two of us combing through racks of gently used textiles. We do it for the thrill of the hunt. It’s exciting and fun for us to score a huge bargain or stumble across a unique treasure. To summarize, we were thrifting before thrifting was cool.

And it is cool — just ask Macklemore, singer of the hit single “Thrift Shop.”

The thrifting trend is alive and well in Rhode Island, which makes sense if you consider the state’s diversity. Thrifting appeals to both ends of the age spectrum and to all income levels. It’s the melding of old and new, classic and trendy, foreign and familiar, that has created a market for secondhand shoppers that is impossible to intentionally re-create.

I have frequented many, if not most, of the antique, consignment, thrift, and vintage stores in and around Providence. There are so many fantastic establishments that it is hard to list my favorites, however whenever my mom comes to visit there are a few gems we absolutely must hit up to get our secondhand-shopping fix. Here are some of our favorites:

Nostalgia, on Wickenden Street, offers three floors of vintage goods. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois
Nostalgia, on Wickenden Street, offers three floors of vintage goods. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois

1. Nostalgia

Nostalgia’s website describes it perfectly: three floors of adventure, wonder, and hidden treasure on the East Side of Providence. Even if you visit on a day when you have several hours to kill, you might not get around to seeing everything in this “curious emporium.”

Favorite finds: Texas Ware bowls, velvet pumps, vintage dresses

236 Wickenden St., Providence, (401) 400-5810, nostalgiaprov.com

Items for sale at the Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket include LPs and L.L. Bean boots. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois
Items for sale at the Rhode Island Antiques Mall in Pawtucket include LPs and L.L. Bean boots. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois

2. Rhode Island Antiques Mall

I think a lot of people associate two adjectives with the word antique: breakable and stuffy. But don’t let the name of this place daunt you; this antiques mall is filled to the brim with an endless assortment of collectible oddities, practical necessities, and everything in between.

Favorite finds: Bean boots, wool throws, a Windstone figurine that I’ve wanted since I was 9.

345 Fountain St., Pawtucket, (401) 475-3400, riantiquesmall.com

Vendors at the Providence Flea, which will host just one more event on Oct. 30. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois
Vendors at the Providence Flea, which will host just one more event on Oct. 30. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois

3. The Providence Flea

There is only one flea left until Christmas, on Oct. 30. The flea is a mix of modern artisans and purveyors of antiques and vintage goods. All the vendors are incredible, but two you should definitely check out if you’re in the market for something previously loved are Americana Darlings and Mint. Bonus tip: make sure you come hungry and visit the food trucks.

Favorite finds: Aviators, Dooney & Bourke bags, dozens of books, Frye boots, silk scarves.

Friendship and Chestnut Streets, Providence, (401) 484-7783, providenceflea.com

Halloween display at Carmen & Ginger in the Arcade in downtown Providence. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois
Halloween display at Carmen & Ginger in the Arcade in downtown Providence. The Providence Journal/Renee Grivois

4. Carmen & Ginger, Pillbox Holiday Vintage, Rocket to Mars

Visiting these shops is like taking a step back in time to an era filled with Pyrex dishes, sequined dresses and mid-century accent tables. Carmen & Ginger is inside the Arcade in downtown Providence (the nation’s oldest indoor shopping mall) and Pillbox Vintage and Rocket to Mars are on Providence’s West Side.

Favorite finds: Buddy Cianci’s autobiography and a retro paint-by-numbers.

Carmen & Ginger, 65 Weybosset St., Providence, (401) 274-1700, carmenandginger.com

5. Goodwill

Keep an open mind about this thrift store. Goodwill has zero frills, but you can’t beat the prices, and they do a lot for the community. They carry everything from clothes to cookware and furniture. Most of their clothing is gently used, but sometimes you’ll find items with the tags still on. And you never know what awesome vintage piece will be tucked between last season’s J.Crew cardigans.

Bonus tip: Check out Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore down the road for furniture or home-improvement supplies.

115 Washington St., South Attleboro, Mass., (508) 399-7601, goodwillmass.org

CORRECTION: The name Americana Darlings was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.