Staff pick: Best huge old thrift shop, about to disappear | Best of Chicago 2019 | Buy Local | Chicago Reader

Staff pick: Best huge old thrift shop, about to disappear

The Salvation Army Family Store & Donation Center

Critics' Picks

In 1931, chewing gum entrepreneur William Wrigley Jr. gave an industrial building at 509 N. Union to the Salvation Army, which started collecting donated goods there in addition to housing Depression-era guys down on their luck. Ever since, it's been the go-to place downtown for great deals on used furniture, clothing, and just about anything else, including stuff you don't need but can't resist. In the years before the Internet "disrupted" the resale business it was possible—as I once did—to pluck a Ceil Chapman or Mainbocher gown from a rack there for, say, $15. There's less chance of that sort of bonanza now, and the building is increasingly decrepit, but this is still the first place to check for furniture, especially pieces too big to easily ship (on the main floor); clothing for the entire family (on the second); and nostalgic miscellany (in the basement)—all offered at pennies on the dollar of their original prices. On a recent visit, for example, a massive Thomasville breakfront was priced at $164.99, an Armani pantsuit could be had for $26.99, and a plastic-encased oil-drop souvenir from Wisconsin's House on the Rock—a sort of low-tech lava lamp—was 97 cents. This hypnotic tchotchke came home with me, but it could be the final purchase I'll make there. The Salvation Army has put the property, in the hot River West market, up for sale, and word is that there's plenty of interest among developers. This holiday season might be the last for this Chicago institution.

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