Goodwill arrives in Fairfield very soon, and I couldn’t be happier. The space along King’s Highway East, once occupied by Marinello’s hairdressing school, will soon be filled with hand-me-downs and throwaways from our closets, basements and garages. I can’t wait to browse and buy.
After spending at least 50 of my 73 years shopping retail, I discovered the wonders of Goodwill after our friend Sharon mentioned how many outfits and fabric she has bought. Friends from the bookstore told me they hardly shop anywhere else.
But I wasn’t really hooked until I stopped one Sunday after our move in 2014 at the Goodwill store up in Groton, where my wife works once a month with the Army National Guard. I dropped off some clothing and tchotchkes and decided to do a quick walk-through, since I had time on my hands while my wife was at the nearby helicopter base.
The place was packed, and I learned quickly that Sundays were 50 percent-off days, based on the color of the weekly tag. Since I wanted to add a few things to my already overflowing wardrobe, I spent more than an hour in the men’s section. Discount pants were regularly $5.99 and sport/dress shirts and sweaters were $4.99.
I cleaned up, finding everything in my size and taking home discount pants, shirts and sweaters from places like Kohl’s, Penney’s and Macy’s, among others, and walking out for under $30. Of course, I needed to be careful not to take dress pants or shirts with tell-tale stains or holes in conspicuous spots. I also found a lot of materials from Italy, the UK or France that must have sold for a fortune before landing on the Goodwill racks.
I got a kick out of the labels in a few of the sweaters I bought on discount, because I had looked at those sweaters more than a year before at much-higher prices. I wondered why their owners had shed the items, but I’ve done the same thing. I had been smitten with a particular color or style, only to find that what looked great on the rack in Macy’s or Kohl’s didn’t look the same on my chubby frame. After wearing it just a few times, I lost the item in my closet and eventually took it to Goodwill.
Sometimes, I’ve combed the women’s section to check out tops or slacks for my wife. To my good fortune, many of the brands she likes have been on the rack, but I’ve shopped carefully. Sag Harbor is one brand I’ve often found, and if I’m careful to look for a short style in slacks and a medium in tops, I can do very well. My other rationale for a purchase is, hey, for $2 or $3, we can just put an item in our drop-off basket the next time we’re up in Groton.
One area where I’ve been particularly lucky at Goodwill is with book shelves and, occasionally, lamps. Just in the last few weeks, I have found two great bookshelves for about $7.50 each that gave my wife two more places for her fabric and quilting magazines, since we are rearranging the back of our great room into a work area. I also found a tall contemporary living-room lamp, which has fit beautifully in the great room.
In talking with other friends who have been frequenting Goodwill for a long time, I’ve learned the Westport store on the Post Road is a gold mine of designer men’s and women’s clothing and high-end, now-retired furniture. That store and Fairfield are at the top of my list. Despite getting a late start in my Goodwill shopping excursions, I’ve managed to coordinate my clothes well. For instance, I was amazed earlier this week when I dressed for school. I had purchased a really nice polyester and rayon shirt in a gray-blue for $2.50 about three weeks ago. It turned out to be a perfect match for the comfortable gray-blue slacks I’d purchased at Goodwill in June for $2.50. At the time, the pants were way too tight, but now with Weight Watchers, they fit perfectly and I received lots of compliments, particularly on the shirt.
Don’t get me wrong. I still shop retail for suits and accompanying shirts and ties. But I’m really looking forward to the grand opening of this new Fairfield Goodwill store, and I’m gathering a stash of “no-longer-wear” clothing to drop off.
Winter is coming. Who knows? Maybe I’ll find a high-end sweater or coat for under $10. I can’t wait to try.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.