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A Guide to Chicago's Best Thrift Stores

Updated on June 29, 2010

Thrifting in Chicago?

Whether you are new to the Chicago thrift store scene or a seasoned pro, take a look at this guide to some of the best second-hand stores in the Windy City. Vote for your favorites and add your own thoughts.

Make No Small Plans

Hundreds of Stores to Choose From - Where to Start?

The Chicago thrift store scene can be overwhelming. Spanning over 230 square miles, the city has more than 100 thrift stores, consignment and resale shops, from North Side church basements to giant strip mall chains in the far South Suburbs.

So what's the best tactic when deciding which thrift stores to tackle?

Pick an area and stick to it.

You could spend an entire day just visiting the Far North Side thrift stores alone. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can drive 15 miles between stores at 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, unless you want to sit in a few hours of traffic.

Find out which stores specialize in what you're looking for.

Vintage fabric? Books? Stereo equipment? Furniture? Focus on what it is you're trying to unearth, then head to the thrift stores that reliably stock those items. You can use the links below to get an idea of what stores have the best stock in what categories.

Call ahead.

If at all possible, phone the thrift stores you're visiting to get their up-to-date hours. Small stores change their hours frequently, and even the chains suffer fires and floods that close their doors. Before you attempt a 45-minute drive across town, give the store a ding-a-ling.

Use one of the routes below.

If you're at a total loss and just want a handy guide to get you started, check out one of the pre-selected routes described below. Don't have a car? That's okay -- directions on taking the CTA are included.

Thrift Store Pricing, Sales & Tips

Familiarize yourself with some of Chicago's major thrift store's prices and policies.

Mondays are half-price day at Unique.

On Mondays, everything at Unique Thrift Stores is half price. It's pretty hectic, but often worth the hassle.

Most stuff is half-price at Unique and Village Discount anyway.

When you enter the store, take a look at the half-price sign hanging above the checkout. All but one color tag will be half-price -- the only full-price tag will be the new items out that week.

Watch out for the 10-Spot at the Village.

Items with the white tags (and the little dog) at Village Discount are just ten cents. There is a limit on how many you can purchase, however.

No price, no sale.

They say it, and they mean it. If you can't find a price tag on a garment, you have to wait for it to be re-priced and put out.

But seriously, if you're nice, one of the managers will usually just give you a price.

Watch for sales at the Brown Elephant.

People often complain that, while the Brown Elephant has some nice stock, it's mildly overpriced. However, each branch has occasional 50-percent off sales on certain merchandise ("green tags", books, etc.).

If possible, get on the mailing list.

Many smaller thrift stores (like the Junior League in Evanston, for instance) have email lists that will alert you to upcoming sales.

A Long List of Chicago Area Thrift Stores - Links and descriptions of some of the best Chicagoland thrift stores.

Given the frequency with which thrift stores burn down, flood, change locations, change managers, policies and stock, or just close their doors forever, a static list would become obsolete in months.

Instead, the following is a list of active Chicago thrift stores, with links to their official websites or profiles on review websites like Yelp or CitySearch.

In some cases where no external review are available, brief descriptions are provided, but where one author may think a thrift store is clean and tidy, others may find it chaotic and disorganized. While one person may think the t-shirt selection is stellar and housewares department bunk, another may think the opposite. Therefore, rather than review each store, links to reviews are provided when available.

Thrift Store Routes -- Driving

Far North Side

Start at the Junior League in Evanston (920 N Chicago), then go right across the street to ORT Resale Shop (915 N Chicago).

Then take a quick jaunt down Chicago Ave. to Kedzie to hit up the Salvation Army (528 Kedzie).

From there, drive back into Chicago to visit the Unique Thrift Store at Howard and Western (7530 N Western).

If it's a Tuesday, Thursday or weekend (and it's before 3 p.m.), run over to the United Church Thrift Store on Morse (1545 W. Morse).

Then head down Clark Street toward Devon and check out the newest Salvation Army (2151 W Devon).

Nearer North Side

Start at the first Albany Park Village (3301 W Lawrence), then head over to the second (4027 W Kedzie).

After that, visit the Albany Park Salvation Army (3301 W Montrose). From here, it's easy to get to the Irving Park Village (4635 N Elston), which is just a stone's throw from the Irving Park Unique (3748 N Elston).

If you're still hungry for more, after you're done here, check out the Avondale Salvation Army (4224 W Belmont), and from there you're just a short drive from the Hermosa Unique (4441 W Diversey).

South Side

Start at the "KMart Unique" on Kedzie (5040 S Kedzie) which is a short drive south of the Stevenson Expressway. From there, head south on Kedzie to the Village Discount (6419 S Kedzie), or you can go further East to check out the Back of the Yards Salvation Army (5112 S Ashland).

After this, from either location, take an east-bound street over to the closest Village Discount (7443 S Racine), and from there get back on Ashland to visit the southernmost (non-suburban) Unique Thrift Store (9341 S Ashland). If you're feeling adventurous and you're willing to pony out the gas money, from here you can drive to the suburban Unique Thrift in Dolton (1030 E. Sibley Blvd.) or the Unique in Markham (3041 W. 159th St.). Google Maps or Garmin are probably your best helps here.

Near South Side

Start at the Little Village Village Discount (4020 W 26th St) -- and go early. Traffic can be killer in this neighborhood after noon, especially on a weekend. From there, head down to the Brighton Park Village (2514 W 47th St).

If you want to drive further west on 47th, you could go the extra 25 blocks to the Salvation Army (5036 W 47th).

From here, use your map skills to get you to the McKinley Park Unique (3542 S Archer), and once you've checked that one out, you can either try the Bridgeport Unique (3000 S Halsted) or the Pilsen Salvation Army (2024 S Western) depending on which direction (east or west, respectively), you'd like to end up at the end of your trip.

If you're feeling adventurous after the Pilsen Salvation Army, check out the St. Pius Parish Store (1701 W 18th Place), if it happens to be open.

Thrift Store Routes - Walking, Biking or Public Transport

Use one of these neighborhood friendly routes to hit up several thrift stores, if you don't have wheels.

Wicker Park

Start at the ARK Thrift Shop (1302 N Milwaukee) and from there it's just a jog up the street to the Wicker Park Brown Elephant (1459 N Milwaukee). From here, you can walk, take the Milwaukee bus, or bike up to the Bucktown Village (2032 N Milwaukee), which is just another short walk from the Bucktown Family Thrift Store (2160 N Milwaukee).

Uptown/Andersonville

Start at the Boystown Brown Elephant (3651 N Halsted). The walk, bike or take the 36 Broadway bus north to the Uptown Salvation Army (4315 N Broadway), which is just a short jaunt from the Uptown Unique (4445 N Sheridan).

From there you can walk, ride your bike take the 78 Montrose bus (near the Wilson El stop) and transfer to the 22 Clark bus, which will drop you off in front of the Andersonville Village Discount (4898 N Clark).

From there it's just a jog up the street (you can take the 22 Clark bus again) to the Andersonville Brown Elephant (5404 N Clark).

Little Thrift, Junk Shop R.I.P.

What happened to all the little junk shops?

Do you remember George's on Clark Street in Andersonville? How about the two nameless junk stores on opposing corners of Rogers and Howard in Rogers Park? Chicago Thrift in Greektown? What about that lady's shop near Devon and Glenwood?

Closed.

Thrift stores take up a lot of space, and space costs money. Unfortunately, selling used merchandise doesn't always rake in the cash, especially if you don't have a high merchandise turnover rate. Resale shops, junk stores and independent thrift stores once dominated Chicago's thrift landscape, but rising rents have forced many to close their doors. If you know of any small-time operators not included on the above list, please include a comment in the space below... if you dare to share.

Your Favorite Chicago Thrift Store?

Choose your favorite thrift store from our edited list.

What's your favorite Chicago thrift store chain?

See results

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    • profile image

      dianaschultz 4 years ago

      Hello! Im Diana Schultz, I am opening a Thrift Store--"Dize's Deals" My Logo is-- "We Can Make A Deal Now"-- "We Can Make A Deal Later" If I do not have it, I would like to call all you other "Thrift Store Owners" to c if u have it. Please give me your #'s if that would b ok. Info on "Grand Opening" will b soon. Excited! Have A Great Day Everyone! Dize

    • profile image

      ChicagoTow 4 years ago

      Great reading, thank you so much!

    • profile image

      erica-sweetie-mascio 5 years ago

      2 Good 2 Be 4Gotten Resale Shop

      2403 S. Oakley Ave.

      Chicago, IL 60608

      (773) 376-8220

      www.2good2be4gottenshop.com

    • profile image

      SecondChanceTreasures 5 years ago

      Since you are the best at tracking great deals, I was wondering if you know how I can target certain people to ask for their help in relocating our thrift store ?

      Please go to this link http://www.gofundme.com/yhgt8 for more information.

      Thanks so much for your time and attention.

    • profile image

      quinn-morales 5 years ago

      @TomNew: I really like the Rosemont one. There is a really good flea market south in the city on 47th and Ashland. They have all kinds of cheap, ridiculous deals. My fave are the $2 camo print tank tops I buy for my fellow bootcampers at the YMCA!

    • profile image

      quinn-morales 5 years ago

      I love the comments, below...so many great new ideas! My fave is Unique Thrift! I always find something when I go there. I find they are one of the least expensive too. My other fave is the Goodwill downtown on Washington. Really nice, brand name stuff!

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      hereandthere 5 years ago

      There's a new-ish not-for-profit thrift store in Hyde Park, called Encore. It's in a small space, but it has great quality clothes & accessories and a pretty high turnover. Prices are great, there's sales every day, and the people are friendly. It's definitely worth checking out; I find something great every time I go, which is often.

      It's at the corner of 51st and Cornell, and the website is www.encorechicago.org. ...enjoy!

    • profile image

      junkntreasures 6 years ago

      How bout some suburban locations? There's a nice one in Arlington Hts. Which carries mostly furniture called Arlington Resale

    • bensen32 lm profile image

      bensen32 lm 6 years ago

      i'm in the far north subs but this is great info and I have visited a few of these when in the city. Great info

    • profile image

      TomNew 6 years ago

      Try a flea market, too. Wolff's Flea Market in Palatine (indoor) and Rosemont (outdoor) is like going to hundreds of thrift shops in one place.

    • profile image

      doloris 6 years ago

      also the Penn-Dutchman on 4912 Lincoln (western brown line stop). It's got antiques and a whole lotta knick knack junk to sift through. the rooms just keep going back and back and then up! it's creepy and fun for an afternoon.

    • profile image

      doloris 6 years ago

      Carlos and Sarah's Surplus of Options in Northcenter. So quirky and well priced! Just organized enough to be appealing and messy enough to be an adventure.

      3664 n. lincoln (addison stop on brown line)

      http://www.yelp.com/biz/carlos-and-sarahs-surplus-...

    • profile image

      thezebrafactory 6 years ago

      the thriftstore routes you have are AWESOME. i live in chicago so this is very helpful

    • profile image

      ullrichink 7 years ago

      Wow! Excellent article! I'm coming in from Michigan and love to hit the thrift shops. This make all of my research, mapping and planning so much easier. Greatly appreciate the effort! Can't wait to hit the stores.

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      ChristineSanderson 7 years ago

      Also, check out locally run Le Thrift. It is an online thrift and consignment store. We sell only name brand and designer clothing and accessories. www.lethrift.com

    • profile image

      ChristineSanderson 7 years ago

      Also, check out locally run Le Thrift. It is an online thrift and consignment store. We sell only name brand and designer clothing and accessories. www.lethrift.com