For all the wealth in this area (or perhaps because of it) there are a surprising number of charity, thrift and vintage stores on the Peninsula. These five are my current favorites, but there are many more. In no particular order…
St. Vincent de Paul
Redwood City 2406 El Camino Real
Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 8 pm Sunday: 10 am – 6 pm
This place is cavernous, with clothes in the front, furniture in the back, and along the side housewares, books, and assorted ephemera. If you are looking for a gently worn pair of Hudson jeans for $8 and a Pee Wee Herman talking doll (you know you are), then this is just the place you are looking for. I have a theory about this place which is that with its proximity to Atherton, the wealthy doyennes of fashion drop last seasons wardrobe here. It’s not unusual to find items with the tags still one I have found in the last month, a $7 pair of Paige jeans, a vintage Diane von Furstenberg dress, a small bookshelf for my son and two J Crew tops with the tags still on them. Clothes are cheap, especially compared to the Menlo Park thrift stores, where a good location on Santa Cruz avenue (coupled perhaps with a wealthier clientele in general) demand higher prices. I have lived close to St. Vincent’s for a very long time and passed it hundreds of times on my way to Target in Redwood City. You might miss it actually tucked as it is between a car repair place and a mattress shop. But it’s worth the trip.
Goodwill (Palo Alto & Menlo Park)
4085 El Camino Way
Palo Alto, CA 94306 650.494.1416
Palo Alto location: Open every day 9 AM – 8 PM
711 Santa Cruz Ave,
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Menlo Park location: Open 9 AM – 8 PM, except Sunday, 10 AM – 6 PM
These are very different Goodwills but both are worth checking out. The Goodwill in Palo Alto is quite large and has a good selection of women’s and kids stuff especially. The Menlo Park one is, I think, a little higher quality for men’s clothing. It’s smaller but perhaps because of this they only put out their best stuff, so selection is pretty curated and generally in good shape and often designer. The downside is these people know their brands. You aren’t going to get a screaming deal here like at St. Vincent’s, but then the shopping experience is nicer and you can check them out after having lunch somewhere on Santa Cruz Avenue. Might I suggest my favorites: Anne’s Coffee Shop and Vida Bistro.
785 Santa Cruz Ave
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Open 10 AM – 5, closed Sunday
Menlo Park actually has a surprising number of thrift stores all on on Santa Cruz Ave. This one is run by the Junior League and it shows. You aren’t going to find any Old Navy here. It can on occasion feel a little dowdy, but like the Goodwill in Menlo Park, it’s well laid out and they definitely put out high quality clothing. You’ll find a pretty good selection of designer goods here and something about the small size makes it feel less chaotic and more refined than say the larger thrift shops in the area.
875 Main Street
Redwood City, CA 94063
Open 9 AM – 9 PM, Sunday 9 AM – 8 PM
Oh I’ve spent countless hours in Savers. It’s huge and runs a city block (albeit a very short block). This is where you go for everything from vintage records to Halloween supplies. If you can think of it, they probably have it. Some of it, especially the goods up a rickety flight of stairs, are probably never going to find a home (ancient exercise bikes, old suitcases, boxes of slides and accompanying projectors) but it’s still fun to look around. They have a lot of clothing, and like St. Vincent’s, you have to roll up your sleeves and get to searching in order to find what you’re after. But that can pay off.
831 Villa St
Mountain View, CA 94041
Alright this place isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s got a great selection of completely awesome 60s, 70s and 80s clothes. This is where you go when you’ve been invited to a 70s party and a packaged costume from House of Humor just isn’t going to cut it…or if you are a Stanford GSB student, where you go before the annual 70s themed trip to Las Vegas. I haven’t been for a while, but they also had great vintage boots, coats and the staff is incredibly nice and helpful and will put together an amazing costume if that’s what you’re after. Oh, this is also the best place for an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, if those are still a thing next year.