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Review: Best Thrift Stores of the Fox Cities

Top+row+%28left+to+right%29%3A+Neenah+Goodwill%2C+AbleLight+Thrift+in+Neenah%0ABottom+row+%28left+to+right%29%3A+Goodwill+Outlet%2C+Menasha+Goodwill
Top row (left to right): Neenah Goodwill, AbleLight Thrift in Neenah Bottom row (left to right): Goodwill Outlet, Menasha Goodwill

Fast fashion and consumerism are severe problems today, but there is always a bright side. Thrift store popularity has been rising for years now and it is a popular way to shop for people of various incomes. This sustainable way of shopping has a positive impact on the reduction of textile waste. Therefore, the more people that thrift the less textile waste in landfills. But this popularity makes it harder to find the hidden gems of the shops; thrifters have to know when and where to look.

 

  1. AbleLight – Neenah

 

I have been thrifting for years now, and when I first started thrifting, I thought this was the perfect shop. As I learned more about the tips and tricks of thrifting I have learned that there are better options. AbleLight (previously known as Bethesda) is not as popular as Goodwill stores and that can be seen as a positive and a negative. The negative aspects are that since it is not as popular, there are not as many new donations, and the stock is not rotated as regularly as a Goodwill store. But the positive of that same idea is that the stock is o’t as regularly shopped. Finding something is always a diamond in the rough. Although it seems to be popular among the older generations as there are many grandma sweaters in stock. If you are looking for that, make sure AbleLight is a first stop.

As many thrift stores do, AbleLight has a positive mission statement alongside the reduction of textile waste. Their main goal is to help people with developmental disabilities get the services they need. These include: housing, employment, behavioral supports, community connections, and more. In 2022-2023, they worked to serve 914 people in community-based programs. An impressive impact coming from a simple thrift store. 

 

  1. Goodwill – Menasha

 

This Goodwill is another instance of finding a hidden gem once in a while. But when shoppers find something, they find something good. It has the classic pros and cons of Goodwill stores. Customers have to go right when the stores open or during the week. The popularity of these stores is the opposite of AbleLight’s. There are more donations but also more shoppers. 

Goodwill’s mission is similar to AbleLight’s. Because Goodwill is a bigger corporation, their impact is on a much larger scale. With at least two stores in every state (including Alaska and Hawaii), there is a greater positive impact in communities across America. For every dollar spent, 90 cents is donated to their cause. That is good to hear as Goodwill is getting pricey. In effect to the rising popularity of thrifting, thrift stores have been raising prices. But, in the end, that is more money for a good cause. 

Amount of Goodwill locations in each state. (Photo by: Smartscapes)
  1. Goodwill – Neenah

 

In all honesty, both of the Goodwill stores in this list are comparable. They’re either hit or miss, it all depends on what time one shops there. I think this Goodwill is more popular than the Menasha store, but that still means even more donations. As of recently, I have found more gems here than in Menasha so that’s really what makes the Neenah Goodwill grace the #2 spot.

  1. Goodwill Outlet – Menasha

Shopping at the Outlet (also known as Goodwill Bins) is an adventure in itself. Shoppers never know what they going to find. Will customers find the most beautiful sweater that they ever laid eyes on, or will they find someone’s dirty old socks? Nobody knows! If shoppers never heard of the bins, it is basically where the items that did not sell at the regular Goodwill stores go. It is a third chance for donated textiles. As one can tell from the name, everything is simply tossed into giant bins on wheels and thrifters spend time here digging for buried treasure. It is strongly suggested by myself and even the staff to wear gloves and sanitize after shopping there. I hope that does not turn your head on this. The clothes and home goods are priced starting at $1.59 per pound and then after 25 pounds, it is $1.29 per pound. There are also a few individually priced items such as DVDs and picture frames, but they are also around $1. I love this place as thrifters get the most bang for their buck and it is the most entertaining. Shoppers can surprisingly find so many prizes when they shop here. The bins are rotated and replenished by the hour, which creates even more opportunities to find something good. 

As I said before, the Goodwill Outlet’s stock mainly features unsold items from the regular Goodwill stores. This reduces the amount of donated items sent to the landfill. There is surprisingly a still long life in clothes that are donated. The first stop of this process is the regular Goodwill stores, then off to the Goodwill Outlet, and then to salvage buyers that buy textiles in bulk quantities. The buyers could either sell the clothes, send them overseas, or even recycle them. Then whatever is left is sent to the landfill. It is still 5 percent of donations but that is a whole lot better than people just throwing out their clothes. 

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