Thrifting in Boston: Tips from an Expert

Johnny Peguero (COM’22) has a huge love for media. Peguero also happens to be a Boston local, having lived in Roslindale and West Roxbury before attending Boston University. Aside from his passion surrounding communications, Peguero is an expert thrifter. He began thrifting in high school and says that approximately 80% of his current wardrobe is second hand material. Peguero shared his experiences thrifting in the Boston area, how thrift stores could benefit from advertising, and his best tips and tricks.

Q: What are your favorite thrift stores in the Boston and BU area?

A: There are a couple of thrift stores in the BU area, like Goodwill in West Campus and Buffalo Exchange on Harvard Avenue. Unfortunately, my favorite spot, Urban Renewals, recently moved to American Legion Highway in Boston’s Roslindale neighborhood. Lucky for me, that is close to where I live. 

Boomerangs is my all time favorite thrift store. They have a great location in Jamaica Plain, and they recently opened a “Boomerangs Limited Edition” on Tremont Street in the South End. It takes the traditional feel of Boomerangs and condenses it for more luxury items. I got some really cute Dior pants there for a lot less than the retail price!

Personally, though, my favorite stores are in the Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury areas. Boomerangs and 704 in Jamaica Plain are much more my style. 704 is a pretty small store but it has a wide selection of  corsets, jackets, really cool graphic t-shirts, and shoes. It can get cramped really quickly, but it is a gem in the neighborhood. 

The store “DVSTY” is a new consignment store that opened on Center Street (in Jamaica Plain). It has more trendy clothes like street wear, ‘hype’, and skater clothing. It is also moderately priced and you can sell your own clothes to them.

When you go into a thrift store, what do you do? Do you have a ritual of how to find the best products?

For me, each thrift store I go to regularly has a ‘staff picks’ rack. This rack is usually at the front of the store and has great pieces. For bigger stores, like Savers in West Roxbury, the men’s shirt section is the largest in the store so I can always find great button downs and sweaters there. Before COVID, I would check out the rack outside of the fitting room because a lot of pieces on the rack are trendy clothes that someone might have just put back. 

I usually look through pants last because the sizing of pants in thrift stores can be a bit inaccurate. Waist size and pant length are pretty important to getting the right fit. I am not the most savvy with a sewing machine, so I try to find the best-fitting pants.

What are your thoughts on resale websites like Depop and Mercari that allow people to sell thrifted clothes?

The difference between these apps and the stores themselves is that the prices are raised significantly [on the apps]. The sellers might only get paid for a single product, and the cost of shipping can be really expensive for that one small item. It’s also harder to buy when you don’t have the item in front of you.

I bought a striped jumpsuit from Depop, and it’s much larger than I thought it would be. If I want to wear it I’d have to roll up the sleeves and pant legs and it would not look how I pictured it. If I were to buy something like this in a store, I could tell the size and not have to pay the markup price and $10 for shipping.

When resellers label something “thrifted” or “vintage” do you think they do it authentically, or simply to market the product to potential buyers?

I do see a lot of people on Depop reselling clothes at a higher price than I would see in store. I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. Everyone has their own buying power but, it does get a little fishy when they don’t explicitly say where they got the item. It’s not technically “deceptive marketing,” but I have definitely seen some posts that I can tell are not described truthfully.

If the reseller is a brand that is advertising their product as something that it isn’t, that would completely discredit them. If they took wholesale apparel and tried to pass it off as “vintage,” it would be very obvious. But, individual sellers have the ability to market their clothes how they want. 

Do you ever donate or consign your own clothes?

I usually donate my clothes to Boomerangs, because a portion of what they make is donated to a foundation to fight AIDS. I did donate to Boomerangs in the beginning of the pandemic and it’s very safe. I usually do not consign my clothes, but my friend Kathryn has done it a lot. The store DVSTY in Jamaica Plain has appointments, and you can come in and consign clothes. If her clothes sell, she would just have to wait till the first of the month to get a check from them. 

Do you think thrift stores could benefit from advertising?

Right now, they do a really good job with social media. Boomerangs has a great Instagram feed featuring their items, sales, and customer stories. What they are doing is great, but I have not seen them do out of home ads. If they want to reach millennials and Gen Z, they really should try to market to all the colleges around Boston. It’s difficult enough to have locals find your social media, let alone people from out of state that are here for school.

So, if you were an advertiser for your favorite thrift store, what kind of ad would you make?

I would definitely focus on an out of home campaign. I think a lot of local thrift stores struggle with appealing to younger people compared to consignment stores. Thrift stores take all the clothes they receive, send them to a distribution center, and push it to the racks. I would want to promote not only buying from the stores, but also having younger people donate. I find myself buying more from thrift stores than actually donating. 

I would make an ad campaign directed at college students when they move out or in [of school]. They are either looking for furniture to have in their apartments, or getting rid of it when they leave. This would be a great opportunity for both the business and the students [to benefit]. It’s important to show how they can donate safely, as well.

For campuses like BU, I would probably print out small flyers to be passed around campus. They could say something like: “Hey, if you need new mugs for your campus apartment, we’re located here.” Even something as small as that can plant the seed in a college student’s mind. If they had thrifted back home and don’t know where local stores are, this is a start. 

I have seen TikTok videos of people giving “guides” of different thrift stores, like Urban Renewals and Garment District. They definitely appeal to the younger demographic. It’s very good for the companies in the earned media department, like we saw with Ocean Spray. It is completely free and it spreads the word on a channel that a lot of young people are using. 

Do you have any final tips for students looking to get started thrifting?

Take your time! It can be a lengthy process to find pieces that you like. If you have a whole day to go to a bunch of stores, take the whole day. And don’t be scared to try on clothes that are out of your comfort zone. 

Ryan Sullivan, Staff Writer

Ryan Sullivan is a junior in CAS studying Political Science and minoring in Public Relations. Having grown up in Boston, Ryan knows the ins and outs of the city. This is his first semester volunteering with The COMmunicator and he is very excited to get to know more about the world of COM. You can find him traveling the world, shopping on Newbury, or driving down Comm Ave listening to Beyonce or Nicki Minaj.

Comments are closed.