Insiders’ Guide: Sonoma Valley secondhand stores
By DIANNE REBER HART / Towns Correspondent
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were spotted recently at one of Sonoma Valley’s many secondhand stores. Not the actual world leaders, but Halloween masks of the former presidents — just another cool find for shoppers who love to expect the unexpected.
Thrift stores and consignment shops are as popular in the valley as wine bars and upscale boutiques. They promote the green movement, help budget-conscious shoppers stretch their dollars and even put cash into the coffers of local schools and far-reaching nonprofit organizations.
Those donating merchandise get tax breaks and the satisfaction of reducing their imprint while helping charitable causes. Consignors even earn cash back for their unwanted goods.
Many of the stores will participate in a treasure-hunting weekend Nov. 10 and 11, featuring maps of the valley’s secondhand establishments, store specials and prize-giveaways. See what you can uncover, from kids’ clothes and collectibles to furniture and vintage couture:
Bon Marche — It’s all in the name at Bon Marche, French for “good deal.” The largest thrift store in town, it stocks a wide range of consignment items and donated goods, much of it clothing and accessories.
Owner Anna Bimenyimana donates proceeds to help women living in poverty in her homeland of Rwanda: the shop is a nonprofit project of Kigali Center for Entrepreneurs. Monies go toward micro loans to help Rwandan women establish small businesses. Shoppers benefit from the low prices, with many items offered for $1.
Visit at 19445 Riverside Drive, Suite 160, bonmarchethriftstore.com, 933-9613.
Discounts: Check the Bon Marche website for special sale items, including larger pieces of furniture.
Church Mouse — Established in 1976, the Church Mouse has three thrift stores benefiting St. Francis Solano School in Sonoma. Items range from toys and books to name-brand clothing and antiques. “I find something weekly that I can’t live without,” admits executive manager Susan Holzer.
Visit the thrift center at 16885 Hwy. 12 (996-5115) for weekend parking lot sales; the Sonoma Plaza shop at 15 E. Napa St. (938-9797) for higher-end clothing, antiques and collectibles; the store at 10 Boyes Blvd. (938-9839) for books, clothing, bric-a-brac. Its adjacent furniture outlet at 18068 Hwy. 12 (938-0188) is under renovation but will open Nov. 15.
Discounts: Everything in the parking lot is half price on Saturdays and Sundays at the main thrift center, 16885 Hwy. 12.
My Girlfriend’s Closet — A lifelong thrift shopper, Fran Meininger can spot both a good deal and great design. Her women’s clothing consignment shop reflects the merging of those interests: sophisticated, current styles for professional women in a wide range of sizes — at half the retail price or better. Outfits and accessories aren’t run-of-the-mill, either.
“They’re items you wouldn’t find in department stores,” Meininger says. “They’re special, one-of-a-kind pieces.” Consignors can donate their proceeds to any of the 15 local non-profits the shop assists.
Visit at 539 First St. W., mygirlfriendsclosetsonoma.com, 933-3050.
Discounts: Deep-discount sales held every fall and spring; inquire at the shop.
Plain Jane’s Consignments — This is the place to score home decor, everything from a fanciful vase to a European armoire. When owner Janie Raymond opened her consignment shop 17 years ago, shoppers were mostly “the garage-sale circuit.” She’s witnessed a shift as the recycle-reduce-reuse mindset has become more mainstream.
“Now it’s very across the board,” Raymond says. “Everyone buys second-hand. Now it’s all different kinds of people, all different ages.” The shop pays it forward, too, donating merchandise and cash to children’s charities in Sonoma County.
Visit at 18495 Hwy. 12, plainjanesconsignments.com, 939-7875.
Discounts: Items are marked down after 30 days; shoppers should inquire about specific items.
Poppy’s — Owner Nicki Lincoln has a talent for transforming nondescript old furniture into pieces of art. Poppy’s specializes in refurbished furniture and vintage kitchen items.
“I take things destined for the landfill and give them new life,” says Lincoln. Hard to imagine the shabby chic French farmhouse buffet was once an ugly duckling before Lincoln’s intervention.
Visit at 13875 Hwy. 12, Glen Ellen, poppyssecondhand.com, 703-3403, 938-8835. Closed Mondays.
Discounts: The owner is “always willing to entertain offers.”
Republic of Thrift — The new kid on the block, Republic of Thrift donates its proceeds to public schools in Sonoma Valley, nearly $20,000 since opening in February. Owner Jeannette Tomany stocks everything but electronics and appliances, with goods donated from the community. “We price to move fast,” Tomany says. “We pride ourselves on our clothes prices.” Local schools give Republic of Thrift an “A” grade.
Visit at 17496 Hwy. 12, republicofthrift.com, 933-9850.
Discounts: Thirty percent off entire stock first Sunday and Monday of every month.
Sandbox — Owner Allie Sterner carries some of the tiniest sizes in town. Her consignment shop focuses on maternity, babies and children. “We’re covering the whole spectrum,” Sterner says.
Expectant moms can purchase baby gear, maternity clothes, layettes and just about everything they’ll need for their newborns. Once those babies start growing, Sandbox has ’em covered with clothing, books, toys and accessories for babies to juniors. It also stocks some new (and handmade) items and even offers a yoga class for parents and kids.
Visit at 201 W. Napa St., Suite 8, Marketplace Shopping Center, sandboxsonoma.com, 938-2699.
Discounts: Sandbox only accepts goods “in great condition” and prices to sell, giving parents a chance to stretch their dollar.
Secret Nest Collective — Partners Kathy Cahn, Laura Cahn, Linda Cargile and Bobbie Jakobus pool their talents for spotting vintage finds — clothing, furniture, jewelry, dishware and more. The collective showcases the treasures they’ve found (plus a few new items) and doesn’t overlook the outdoors. The shop features two gardens with secondhand patio furniture, pots and garden decor. “The bad economy has helped the collective business,” says Kathy Cahn. “People are looking for good quality and good deals.”
Visit at 13885 Hwy. 12, Glen Ellen, thesecretneststore.com, 331-5533.
Discounts: No specific sale days but shoppers who know their prices can find discount goods.
Sisters Consignment Couture — Women of all sizes can find current fashions and accessories here, from casual outfits to formal wear. Bargain hunters will love the clearance rank outside the store, too. “It’s the whole recycling aspect,” said owner Christine Johnson. “You’re doing something for the environment as well.” Sisters donates unsold fashions to FISH.
Visit at 117 W. Napa St., Suite B, sonomaconsignment.com, 933-8422.
Discounts: Clearance rack daily, storewide sale at Christmastime and in late July.
Vignette Consignment — For high-end decorative home items and furnishings, this is destination shopping. Veteran interior designer Naggie Alikhani displays them in artful vignettes in the roomy older home that houses her shop. The merchandise “is going to be your find, your treasure,” she says. “It’s not going to be something you’ll find somewhere else.”
Visit at 565 W. Napa St., 933-9345.
Discounts: Ongoing sales; ask about specific items at the shop.
West Spain Thrift Shop — Volunteers from the Women’s Fellowship of First Congregational Church run this 56-year-old charitable shop that supports church programs as well as 11 nonprofit organizations. It’s only open twice a week, but the ever-changing display of clothing, books and household items brings in a regular following of bargain hunters.
The shop supports the green movement, funds worthy programs and celebrates community fellowship by working together with the other local secondhand stores, says volunteer Judy Weiner. “We’re not competing with each other. We’re helping each other.”
Visit at 252 W. Spain St., 996-1328, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday.
Discounts: The fourth week of every month, clothing is half-off the ticketed price.