Thrift Pleasures

Paris thrift shops—not second-hand stores, but real thrift shops—are a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full enterprises. On the negative side, there are few of them, and many of those are scary-scummy. The more salubrious ones in the central parts of Paris, like the two Emmaus locations in the 11th, carry very little furniture, home décor, appliances, or dishes. The mega Emmaus in the 14th, which carries everything from beds to washing machines, is only open on Saturdays, and thus is mobbed during its few hours of operation. But the plusses, to me, outweight the minuses. Parisians have not taken to thrifting the way Americans have.

Used clothing a la mothball carries a larger stigma here. That results in fewer people picking through the goods, and quality scores resting on shelves longer. There may not be a ton of contemporary clothing on the racks at Emmaus, but what’s there is almost all in great shape and reasonably fashionable. And unlike the resale shops of Chatelet or in the 10th, the prices in thrift stores are sometimes shockingly low. Plenty of tables and shelving units in Emmaus costs under 10 euros. Store employees cleave the the unspoken thrift-store operational rule of being totally clueless, slow, unhelpful, and unable to do simple tasks such as putting a price on a tag-less item. But that’s a plus, too: they wouldn’t know a mid-century modern masterpiece if it bit them in the fesses, so treasures at that mega Em this past weekend included a vintage miniature pram was priced at 30 euros (WHY did I not buy it?) and a ’60s Formica tables and chairs went for a fraction of what you’d see if going for at the puces

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