Looking for a Bargain? Thrift Stores Open in Force on Cape Cod

If you haven’t already noticed, Cape Cod Main Streets, plazas and shopping centers have become crowded with stores giving products a second or third life – at half (or less) of the price.

Thrift stores have cropped up everywhere in the last few years, just look at this map of Google search results.

It seems as though most of them are located in the Mid-Cape along Route 28, but with the exception of Truro, there’s at least one or more in each Cape Cod town.

Why are they so popular here, and what does their proliferation say about the Cape’s economy and shopping habits?

What to Expect at Thrift Shops

At most thrift stores, you can expect to find secondhand clothing, décor, small furniture pieces, old electronics, and even some antiques.

Some, like Atomic Dimestore at 187 West Main Street, Hyannis, focus solely on goods from specific eras like the 1950s and 60s. Others, like the Cape Abilities Thrift Shop, 316 MA-28, West Yarmouth, exist to raise money for a specific cause.

No matter the theme of operation or supply, these establishments typically include a broad range of items to match any home- and fashion-related need. They’re the “mystery bag” of the shopping world, which beckon you to reach in and discover what you can pull out.

Are They Indicators of the Economy?

Similar to how a verified Dolce & Gabbana bag being sold on eBay hurts the fashionable carry industry, it may be tempting to speculate that secondhand stores are distractions from other small businesses which sell the same things, new.

Then again, not everyone can afford new. So is the rise of the thrift market a harbinger for a poor economy?

According to the National Association of Resale Professionals, these types of stores account for $17 billion in revenue each year. While it is likely much of that money is cycled through larger chain thrifts like Savers and Goodwill, there’s still plenty circulating through local economies.

According to Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross, their organization saw a slew of these shops “mushroom-up” after the recession in 2008.

She attributes this to the low barrier to entry for business people looking to get in on the market: it’s not really expensive to start a thrift store business, after all.

Northcross also believes the range of items sold at these stores appeals to members of all income brackets. Second-home owners often need cheap frills for their foyers; young families like to spruce up their apartments without breaking the bank.

“People like things that are unique,” she said. “So much of what we buy now comes right off the shelf from China, so there’s a market for things that have been reused in a thoughtful or artful way.”

Second hand stores also encourage the “Three R’s:” reduce, reuse, and recycle.

While the national economy just wants you to buy new, what’s best for big business is not always great for the environment. America dumps plastic and overpowers landfills with its trash, but much of what it throws out only makes room for another new item in the closet. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, but we could all learn a lesson in reuse now and again. Not every item in one’s finery needs to be brand new.

Local Favorites

Second Hand Thrift, 12 White’s Path in South Yarmouth, used to upload video updates to their website detailing new inventory treasures. But they stopped doing that in 2015 because, according to them, their items were bought up too quickly. So it appears their comprehensive home good, tool, video game and furnishing selection is quite popular.

Wilma’s Eclectic Finds (618 Route 28, West Yarmouth) specializes in exactly what the name implies. Tea leaf fortune telling kits, electric baked good warmers, and map-embossed end tables are just a few of the out-of-the-ordinary items sold there.

Then there’s Cape Cod Pickers at 410 E Falmouth Hwy, East Falmouth. Walking into their store, it is easy to draw similarities between what you see in front of you and what has been filmed on the similarly-named television show, American Pickers. In the popular program, two guys tour the nation, visiting old houses and barns and picking up whatever treasures they find. This Falmouth business does something similar, but Cape-wide. As a result, they’re a little antique-heavy.


There are also many not-for-profit thrift shops on Cape Cod – shopping at these locations is a win-win for your wallet and your local charity.

One of the newest is the Cape Abilities Thrift Shop, 316 MA-28, West Yarmouth. Sales from this store benefit the organization of the same name. Cape Abilities provides education, counseling, residential and employment services to people with disabilities.

The VNA of Cape Cod Thriftique (1074 MA-28, South Yarmouth) raises money for the Visiting Nurse Association, the nationwide network of healthcare professionals who provide care in the home. Similarly, the Cape Cancer Thrift Shop (1085 Main St, West Barnstable) provides funding for patients suffering from cancer.

A few churches on Cape Cod have their own thrift stores, too; many of them located in the buildings’ basements. Our Lady of the Cape (11 Route 6A, Brewster) and Holy Trinity (240 MA-28, West Harwich) are just a couple notable examples.

By CapeCod.com Staff