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Jean's Used

A secondhand hound offers her favorite spots for sharing the wealth


Published April 16, 2008 at 12:21 p.m.


Jean Forden didn't grow up poor and never once visited a thrift store as a child. Hers was an affluent Manhattan upbringing that didn't allow for perusing rummage sales or used bookstores. "My mother would have died first if we'd ever gotten anything secondhand," recalls Forden.

But years later, while living in Portland, Oregon, Forden became a thrift-store convert, motivated by neither financial necessity nor any newfound eco-mindedness. Initially, Forden says, it was all about the simple joy of chancing on "a cheap dress from Talbot's" or a pair of $75 shoes for two dollars. "It's the thrill of having something in mind, and then finding it," she explains.

The 76-year-old Burlingtonian has plenty of retail experience - Forden used to own a store on Burlington's waterfront called "The Little Shop of Recovery and Discovery," for recovering alcoholics. Today she is almost missionary in her zeal for promoting the reuse-and-recycle ethic.

Forden keeps her shopping to bricks-and-mortar stores - she doesn't own a computer. When she couldn't find a secondhand-shopping guide, the feisty septuagenarian set out to write one herself. Recently she offered her list to Seven Days on the condition that it emerge in print, not just online, for people who don't have Internet access.

Forden offers one caveat: Hers is by no means a comprehensive list - yet. She welcomes additions and recommendations, and would love to hear from others who've found out-of-the-way treasure troves of slightly tattered wares. (Editor's note: Seven Days will gladly collect suggestions from readers and add them to the online guide, as well as sharing with Forden. Please include phone numbers.)

"It's all about the satisfaction of getting and giving, the thrill of getting and giving," Forden says, "and knowing that you're going to get my shirt, and maybe I'll even see you on the street wearing it and say, 'That was my favorite shirt!'"

Click here for Forden's list of secondhand shops.