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Thrifty Business

Duds and décor on a student-sized budget


Published August 24, 2011 at 10:47 a.m.
Updated September 16, 2016 at 3:15 p.m.

Every August as the college students return to town, Seven Days publishes What's Good, the off-campus guide to Burlington. It addresses basic student needs — you know, nightlife, outdoor adventures, entertainment, food and shopping. This year's 108-page volume also includes features on recommended road trips and getting a job after graduation, as well as Carolyn Fox's thrifting tips, which we've reprinted here in Seven Days. Pick up this year's What's Good — with a cover designed by Torrey Valyou of local fashion label New Duds (check it out in the left sidebar) — on college campuses and in select locations in and around Burlington.


College ain’t cheap. After you’ve paid for tuition and textbooks, it seems there’s just enough left over for the occasional late-night pizza.

Fortunately, in Burlington it’s easy to become a connoisseur of low-cost living. Want to deck out your dorm room or spice up your wardrobe? You’ll find crazy-good deals at the city’s secondhand retailers. I asked a local fashion blogger for tips on thrifting locally, and then she and I took a shopping spree to see what we could find ... you know, purely for research purposes. Read on for our cheapskate’s guide to BTV.

Secondhand Stores

Battery Street Jeans Exchange

7 Marble Ave., Burlington, 865-6223

Don’t let the name confuse you; this local landmark once stood by the waterfront, but it currently resides at the corner of Marble and Pine streets. It’s a smidge pricier than your average Goodwill, but you can still unearth a nearly brand-new Gap skirt for a breezy $5.

Classy Closet

164 Main St., Winooski, 655-2330,

Hit up this low-budget thrift store for clothes, hats and shoes. While you’re at it, look for assorted books and movies that can provide cheap weeknight entertainment.

Dirt Chic

77 Main St., Burlington, 863-1461,

It’s cheap to be chic at this classy Main Street trading post. Caitlin raves about the store’s “super-friendly atmosphere.” Don’t overlook the sale rack.

Downtown Threads

73 Church St. (above Ken’s Pizza and Pub / Monelle),

Burlington, 399-2070,

“Expect serious, quality vintage,” says Caitlin, from stellar sunglasses to “the best mix of flannels.” The shop’s owners frequently update their Facebook page with photos of hot, new items.


1080 Shelburne Rd., S. Burlington, 658-5359;

329 Harvest Ln., Williston, 879-0088;

Caitlin describes Goodwill as “so hit or miss that it always keeps you on your toes.” Two Vermont storefronts carry photo frames, kitchen items, old records and never-ending aisles of clothing — you just have to be willing to thumb past a few velour tops to get the good stuff.

Plato’s Closet

34 Taft Corners Shopping Center, Williston, 878-0001,

Plato’s is the gateway drug to thrifting: It carries gently used, name-brand threads and accessories for way less dough than you’d fork out at the mall. You can sell your old clothes here when you’re short on cash. It’s a different kind of ATM.


266 Pine St., Burlington, 658-4143,

It’s dusty in here, but you’ll find a big supply of used furniture, mirrors, paintings, curtains and photo frames. Don’t miss the big bin of fabric scraps; one could be the perfect tapestry.

Salvation Army Thrift Store

336 North Winooski Ave., Burlington, 864-9552,

It’s not the trendiest thrift store, but the Salvy has a stash of donated clothes, electronics, home décor and knickknacks that makes it a reliable source of bargains.

Church and Synagogue Thrift Stores

Some local churches run off-the-beaten-track thrift operations. Brave the stuffy basements to find clothes, books and miscellaneous household goods. A good starting place? Caitlin recommends the Possibility Shop in the basement of Burlington’s First Congregational Church at 38 S. Winooski Ave.

Clothing Line

163 Cherry St., Burlington, 651-8877

This pint-sized shop is packed with ultra-stylish offerings: silky skirts, patterned scarves, jaunty fedoras. It’s essentially the walk-in closet you wish you had, and “They always have the cutest dresses in the window,” notes Caitlin.

Vintage & Antiques Shops

Anjou & the Little Pear

53 Main St., Burlington, 540-0008,

This consignment store/art gallery/upcycling arsenal is filled with killer tapestries, vintage posters and retro clocks. Some of the prices are a little steep, so be prepared to limit yourself to one item.

Old Gold

180 Main St., Burlington, 864-7786,

Come October, this popular boutique is a mecca for Halloween costumes. Says Caitlin: “The first time I walked in and saw their wall of worn-in, vintage cowboy boots, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.”

Second Time Around

89 Church St., Burlington, 660-8100,

Find rows and rows of high-end designer clothes at a fraction of the original cost. Hightail it to the back room for deals under $25.

Upstairs Antiques

207 Flynn Ave., Burlington, 859-8966

Whether you’re grabbing a refurbished mirror for $25 or an old record for $2.50, you’ll find something that fits your budget amid the oddities and ephemera. Here the shopping is always entertaining.