Sunday, February 3, 2013

Little Dog's Thrifting Guide to Boston

I've received a number requests for Boston thrifting tips, so I decided to pull together a list of my favorite spots. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather a list of the places I have first hand experience with and consider to be worth checking out. I've included details about what to expect at each store, where to park or which train line to take, links to store locations on Google maps, and more. This list pulls together much of what I've learned over 10 years of thrifting in Boston, so hopefully it will be a useful resource for newcomers to Boston or those of you just getting into thrifting.

The list is broken into four categories: thrift stores, antique malls, flea markets, and upscale vintage.   
I'd Rather be Thrifting Poster by Ashleyg

Urban Renewals
122 Brighton Ave, Allston
(617) 783-8387 
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat. 10-6, Thr. 10-8, Sun. 12-5
The scoop: One of my favorites. Like Goodwill Boston, this store is huge. Racks and racks of clothing organized by type and then color. A large room for furniture in the back and housewares all along the wall. I've had good luck with linens here as well. Huge selection of children's clothing. Cash only, but they have an ATM in the store. No dressing rooms, but lots of mirrors. Metered street parking out front, or take the Green Line train to Harvard Ave and walk a few blocks. The 57 bus also stops less than a block away. 

Goodwill Boston
1010 Harrison Avenue, Boston
(617) 541-1270
Hours: Mon-Fri. 9-7
Sat. 9-6:30
Sun. Noon-6
The scoop: This is the largest Goodwill in Boston -- the flagship store, if you will -- roughly the size of a supermarket. TONS of clothes and a large selection of housewares, books, and some furniture in the back. If you're driving you'll enjoy the large parking lot out front. For those taking public transportation, the SL4 and SL5 buses stop one block away, or the Ruggles stop on the Orange Line train is about a 15 minute walk from the store.

Goodwill Boston Outlet Store
1010 Harrison Avenue, Boston
(617) 541-1225
Hours: Mon-Sat. 9-5
Closed Sun.
The scoop: This store is actually right next to Goodwill Boston at 1010 Harrison Ave, and has even deeper discounts, but be prepared to rummage through bins. Lots of books, clothing, and shoes. Cash only. Pay attention to the hours, as they are different from Goodwill Boston.

Goodwill Allston/Brighton
965 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
(617) 254-0112
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10-8
Sun. Noon-6
The scoop: A smaller Goodwill, and yet I've had good luck here. My theory is that the wealthy folks down the street in Brookline make their donations at this store. Metered parking out front on Commonwealth Ave. is sometimes hard to come by, but the Pleasant St. stop on the Green Line train is directly in front of the store. Some furniture, but not much. Heads up: some of the nicer items are separated in a "boutique" section at the front of the store and marked up a bit.

Goodwill Somerville
230 Elm Street, Somerville (Davis Square)
(617) 628-3618
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10-7
Sun. Noon-6
The scoop: A large store with a separate downstairs for housewares, books, and furniture. It's been a bit picked over lately, but sometimes I'll strike gold, so you never know. Metered parking out front, and the Davis Square stop on the Red Line is a few blocks away. There are a few other funky vintage shops in Davis Square as well as some consignment clothing shops on the same block so you can make an afternoon of it. Check out Artifaktori while you're there and stop at Diesel Cafe for lunch.

Goodwill Cambridge
520 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge (Central Square)
(617) 868-6330
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10-7
Sun. Noon-6
The scoop: This is a small store, and probably less organized and more dingy than others, but it is packed to the gills. A few racks for housewares in the back. Don't bother going here if you're looking for furniture. They get the occasional side table or chair, but not much else. There's a slightly higher end thrift store across the street called Boomerangs, which is worth checking out. Street parking available or get off the Red Line at Central Square and walk one block. Buses: Massachusetts Ave @ Pearl St (1, 47, 64, 70, 70A, CT1), Green St @ Pearl St (47, 64, 70, 70A), Pearl St @ Franklin St (47)

The Garment District
200 Broadway, Cambridge 
(617) 876-5230
Hours: Sun - Thr 11-8, Fri. 11-6, Sat. 9-8
The Scoop: A large industrial space with "dollar a pound" clothing on the first floor and a more curated selection of vintage and used clothing upstairs. Lots of dressing rooms. A small selection of linens, but no housewares. The first floor also has a costume shop and around Halloween the store is a zoo. Park on the street or take the Red Line train to Kendall/MIT and walk 8 minutes up Broadway. The CT2 bus also stops a block away.

Boomerangs Central Square
563 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
(617) 758-6128
Hours: Mon-Sat. 11-8 
The Scoop: Like Boomerangs JP, this store is curated for cool stuff and the prices are slightly higher than what you will find at Goodwill. Furniture and books at the front of the store. A small selection of housewares, and lots of clothes. This store is not as large as Boomerangs JP, but there are treasures to be found. Park on the street or take the Red Line to Central Square and walk one block. Buses: Massachusetts Ave @ Pearl St (1, 47, 64, 70, 70A, CT1), Green St @ Pearl St (47, 64, 70, 70A), Pearl St @ Franklin St (47)
Goodwill JP

678 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
(617) 522-1415
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10-8:00
Sun. Noon to 6
The scoop: Another smallish store, but often worth the trip. No furniture here. Shelves for housewares in the back. Right down the street from Boomerangs JP, which is a great thrift store, so hit up both spots. Street parking on Centre Street or take the Orange Line to Green Street and walk 8 minutes. Buses: Center St @ Seaverns Ave (192, 35, 38, 39, 41, 48), Centre St @ Burroughs St (192, 35, 39, 41, 48), Centre St @ Myrtle St (192, 35, 39, 41, 48).

Boomerangs JP
716 Centre Street, Jamaica Plain
(617) 524-5120
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat. 10-7, Thr. 10-8, Sun. 11-6
The scoop: Boomerangs is curated for cool stuff, but the prices are still very reasonable. Lots of great vintage clothes and decent amount of furniture and housewares in the back and lots of books. See parking/train instructions from the Goodwill JP listing. Street parking on Centre Street or take the Orange Line to Green Street and walk 8 minutes. Buses: Centre St @ Seaverns Ave (192, 35, 38, 39, 41, 48), Centre St @ Burroughs St (192, 35, 39, 41, 48), Centre St @ Myrtle St (192, 35, 39, 41, 48).

*Note: I hear the vintage clothing shop 40 South Street in JP is also good, but I have never been. Check it out and let me know!
Cambridge Antique Market
201 Monsignor O'Brien Hwy, Cambridge
(617) 868-9655 
Hours: Tue - Sun. 11-6
The Scoop: Five stories of dealer spaces. This place is so packed you could spend the entire day and not see everything. Prices range from high end antique store rates to thrift store prices. Lots of dealers run sales, so good deals are possible. Great jewelry in cases on the first floor. Mostly furniture in the basement. They also have framing and bike repair shops in the basement. The staff is super friendly and helpful. A few dealers selling vintage clothing, but mostly housewares, art, and furniture in this mall. The store has its own parking lot, or take the Green Line train to Lechmere and walk 1 block. Buses: O'brien Hwy @ Winter St (80, 87, 88), 225 Msgr O'brien Hwy (80, 87, 88), Cambridge St @ Third St (69, 80, 87, 88).
730 Eastern Ave, Malden
(781) 388-9878
Hours: Thr - Fri. 10-5, Sat - Sun. 9-5
The Scoop: This store has moved locations since I last visited, but they ran a fairly large business and I am assuming things are still up to snuff at the new location. Lots of furniture and smalls in dealer spaces. This store also runs several live auctions each month, and offers appraisals. Occasionally they hold "flea markets" upstairs with bargain prices. Park in the lot at the store, or there are a number of buses that stop nearby.

283 Main Street, Rowley
Sundays March - November
The Scoop: Up to 240 vendors selling their wares every Sunday 45 minutes north of Boston. 98% of the vendors are selling true antiques and vintage, and there are AMAZING finds to be had if you get there early. By noon some of the vendors are already packing up. Feel free to bargain, and bring lots of cash and comfortable walking shoes. There are a few food carts and a small indoor food counter with homemade pastries, including the best chocolate glazed donut I have ever had. Tons of furniture, housewares, and clothing, and even a little architectural salvage. Free parking in the field next to the market. This market is definitely worth the drive, but skip the trip if it's raining. The market is technically open when it rains, but very few vendors show up.
23 Main Street, Brimfield
2013 show dates: May 14-19, July 9-14, September 3-8
The Scoop: This is the mother of all flea markets on the east coast. The show runs along Rt. 20 in Brimfield, MA for a distance of half-mile and 500' or more back on each side of the highway. Thousands of dealers pass through over the course of the week, selling everything from  fine antiques to yard junk. Lots of food courts and portable bathrooms. Brimfield is really something to see, and I highly recommend it for all vintage lovers. Bring cash, comfortable shoes, and sunblock. You'll have to drive to get to this show, no trains or buses in the area that I know of.

SOWA Vintage Market
460C Harrison Ave, Boston
Hours: Sundays 10-4 year round
The Scoop: The selection at this vintage market is highly curated and the prices are high, but you can walk away with good stuff if you're willing to pay the price. The market is held in a great industrial space, across the way from a number of art galleries, boutique shops, and best of all the famous Bobby from Boston store.

Top Shelf Flea Market
George Dilboy VFW Post 529, 371 Summer Street, Somerville
3-4 x/yearly
The Scoop: A small market in one room of a VFW post. Booths are highly curated and prices are higher than your larger outdoor flea market. Lots of great vintage clothing for men and women. The bar in the back of the hall is open during markets, so enjoy a beer while you browse. Favorite vendors at this market are Bobby from Boston and Newton Street Vintage for impeccable vintage menswear. Take the Red Line train to Davis Square or park in the lot behind the building.

Bobby From Boston
19 Thayer Street in Boston's South End 
(617) 423-9299
Hours: Tues - Sun. 12-6
The Scoop: Bobby's is run by a veteran dealer who specializes in supplying wardrobe for period films, and is considered by many to be the best vintage menswear store on the east coast. The focus is 1940s through '70s menswear, but the store does have some women's pieces, and more than that it's really something to see. Stepping into Bobby's is like stepping back in time. From the store display furniture, to the clothing and accessories, this store is curated to perfection. Here is a nice review from the Alex Grant blog. Do yourself a favor and check out this gem.

Artifaktori  (2 locations)
Davis Square
22 College Ave, Somerville
(617) 776-3708
Hours: Wed - Fri. 12-7, Sat & Sun. 12-6

Beacon Hill
121 Charles Street, Boston
(617) 367-5854
Hours: Wed - Fri. 11-7, Sat & Sun. 11-6
The Scoop: Artifaktori specializes in vintage women's clothing and accessories, with a smaller selection of menswear. Both stores are small, but beautifully curated, and the prices are reasonable. The Davis Square store also carries some kitschy housewares and the occasional piece of furniture. Park on the street or take the Red Line train to Davis Square for the Somerville store. Park on the street (good luck) or take the Red Line train to Charles/MGH and walk a block for the Beacon Hill store. Tip: Charles Street in Beacon Hill has some of the nicest high end antique shops in Boston, worth perusing. Make a day of it, and try the Paramount Cafe for lunch.

1731 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge
(617) 497-0137
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10-6, Sun 12-5
The Scoop: High end Danish modern and mid century furniture in pristine condition with prices to match.  Hanging lights, teak credenzas, and Eames chairs abound. A few smaller items like clocks and pottery as well. A beautiful store worth checking out, if only for inspiration. Take the Red Line to Porter Square or Harvard Square and walk about 5-10 minutes. Bus: Massachusetts Ave Opp Garfield St (77, 96), Massachusetts Ave @ Garfield St (77, 83, 96), Massachusetts Ave @ Forest St (77, 83, 96).

Brattle Book Shop
9 West Street, Boston
(617) 542-0210
Hours: Mon-Sat. 9-5:30
The Scoop: Amazing used book store. Everything from rare and expensive first editions on the 3rd floor to a "bargain book alley" in the alley next to the building with $1, $3, and $5 books on rolling carts. Thousands of amazing vintage books inside at reasonable prices and they get new books in constantly. Take the Red, Green, or Orange Line to Downtown Crossing and walk 2 blocks or the SL5 to Downtown and walk 1 block. Parking is tough in this area. You'll pay $15 for a garage and there is no street parking.

Twentieth Century Ltd
73 Charles Street, Boston
(617) 742-1031
Hours: Mon - Sat. 11 - 6, Sun 12-5
The Scoop: A tiny garden level shop on Charles Street PACKED with amazing vintage jewelry from all periods. They have everything from costume jewelry to diamond rings, and the knowledge to price and sell both. They also carry a small selection of hats, clocks, paintings, old photographs, and other odds and ends. Park on the street (good luck), pay $15-25 for a lot nearby, or take the Red Line train to Charles/MGH or Park Street and walk.

  • Sign up on to receive lists of estate sales with photos via email
  • Check regularly for yard sales 
  • Sign up on to receive lists of yard sales via email
  • Talk to vendors at flea markets to find out other markets they sell at 
  • If using public transportation, try out the MBTA's trip planner feature for door to door instructions using the best combination of the train, bus, rail, and walking. 
Know of a great thrifting spot I missed? Leave it in the comments!


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