store review: family pathways’ north branch used book store

Is there anything more fulfilling than a good, old-fashioned bookstore shopping spree?  I don’t mean the “fill up the Amazon shopping cart” kind (fulfilling in an altogether different way), but the “holy shit I’ve been at this bookstore two hours, where has the time gone?” kind. I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more fun. But then I discovered Family Pathway’s Used Book Store up in North Branch. A magical place where bibliophiles like me can enjoy hours-long shopping extravaganza and barely dent their checking accounts.


The prices: Pricing at this store is as straight-forward as it gets: $4 for hardcovers, $3 for paperbacks, $1 for clearance corner books, 99 cents for children’s books. When I visited, a sale on all gardening, craft and cookbooks was running, knocking 20 percent off books in those genres.

The organization: When I first walked into this thrift, I honestly felt like I was at a cozy, small-town library. The shelves are clutter-free and every section is clearly identified, making it incredibly easy to zero-in on the sections you’re interested in.

The collectible books section: Taking up a good portion of the back of the store is a categorized assortment of vintage and antique books. I found some serious gems back there, including some home-making and cook books, which were both discounted 20 percent.

The clearance corner: Tucked in the back left corner is the ample-sized clearance corner, featuring a wide variety of books, all just $1.

Where does the money raised here go? To support Family Pathways’ many varied community services, including non-medical senior services like advocacy, respite care and companionship; food pantry access for individuals and families; and support for youth and teens like mentoring programs and after-school activities at their teen centers. Family Pathways serves communities in seven counties throughout Central Minnesota and Western Wisconsin and continues to add new services based on the needs of the community.

On my last visit, I spent a total of $42 and came home with all of these books.

I’m stoked on them all…here are close-ups of a few.

Forty-three dollars people, for 14 books, about half of them vintage.

Go here to find: Books!

Selection/Variety: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Quality: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Pricing: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Organization:♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Customer service: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Cleanliness: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Do they take credit cards? Yep!

One more money-saving tip: For every 10 pounds of books you donate, you’ll receive a book buck (that looks like a bookmark!) worth $1, for use that same day or on a future visit. They also give out one book buck for every $10 you spend!

While you’re there: Why not hit Recycled Wardrobes, the thrift store just a block down on Main Street? If you’re in the mood for coffee, every cup I’ve had from North Country Coffee has been super yum. (To learn more about Family Pathways’ other thrift stores, check out this post.)

Where it is: On North Branch’s main drag: 6381 Main Street, North Branch

Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Contact: 651.277.0098



pro tips for surviving super sale days

Hitting up the super sale days at thrift stores comes at a price. The odds that the stores will be overrun with fellow bargain hunters are great, and without proper preparation, you might go a little bonkers. (Goodness knows I sometimes do, and I thrift all the freakin’ time.) So, if you’re planning on hitting up any of the 4th of July sales this weekend (here’s my round-up), here are some awesome tips from experienced friends of mine you might helpful.


1. Bring beverages! I start my morning with plenty of coffee and bring along a water bottle. Hydration is important.

2. People get super aggressive on sale days—don’t let rude people bum you out! Be prepared with an arsenal of smiles and “excuse me’s.”

3. If you can avoid a cart, do it. Trying to maneuver your cart through crazy people, stray children and thrift-store employees can be a drag.

4. Focus! This may not be the best day to peruse every section… stick to what you are really looking for and bee line for that area of the store first.


1. Know what you are getting yourself into. Think Black Friday openers for the newest toy fad plus people who are even more into deals than the average shopper. This makes for an intense bunch of rabid treasure hunters. As I see it, you have two choices—to embrace the crazy and become one yourself OR attempt to float above it all, untouched by the seething anger that tends to erupt when you find yourself fighting over a treasure with another, less enlightened shopper. If you take the latter route, do some meditation in your car before entering the store.

2. Watch out for small children. Despite store’s best intentions with their loudspeaker reminders that your children must be by you at all times, mega sales at thrift stores tend to be crawling with unattended children. You will feel really bad if you accidentally hit one with your cart, even if it is their fault.

3. Keep an eye out for potential competitors. Thrifting brings together people from all walks of life. Upon entering the store, and during your shopping time, look for people who look like they have similar tastes as you. Hit the sections they aren’t in, before they can get to them Note: this sort of action is fitting if you are taking the “embrace the crazy” mindset described in tip. No. 1.

4. Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by deals. Mega deals tend to warp the brain, causing thrifting judgment to go out the window—when deciding on your final items, resist the tendency to buy whatever you have gotten your paws on and ask yourself if you really, truly want/can’t live without the item in question.

5. Have patience. If you hit up a sale later in the day, chances are items will be rather picked over. The plus side to this is that you can shop in a less intense environment. No matter what, don’t give up—I once unknowningly stumbled upon a 50% off sale at Value Village to be sorely disappointed, that is, until I found one of the most amazing/strangest pieces I have found thrifting—a business casual drunk Mickey Mouse short-sleeved sweatshirt style t-shirt. Had I given up after the first twenty minutes, I would have never found this gem.


1. Be kind to your fellow thrifters. It can get pretty nutso in there and sometimes the worst of human nature comes out while wrestling for a deal. Just remember that you are all in it together, equally gripped by what I like to call the thrift “fever.” Don’t forget to smile, move your cart out of the way and congratulate someone else on their great find (even if it makes you green with envy).

2. Get there early…or get there late. As with most big sales, the early bird gets the worm. However, there is something to be said for taking it easy, enjoying a leisurely brunch and arriving later in the day once the frenzy has died down. You can browse more thoroughly and calmly. And remember, not everybody is looking for the same things you are and they have probably left some great treasures behind.

3. Hit the road, Jack. The thrift store right down the road is easy pickings for everybody in your hood. If you’ve got the time, pack the cooler and hit the way out-of-the way spots on the edge of town and beyond.

4. Hydrate. Thrifting is a competitive sport after all and summer is in full swing.


1.  Don’t bother with a cart. Make a couple trips out to the car if need be, but a cart is just going to slow you down…and every other shopper too.

2.  Wear light layers (skirt + legging + t-shirt) for quick, easy, and perhaps public try-ons. Comfy shoes are a must. A hands-free purse is also a must.

3.  Relax and have fun. The environment can get a bit tense and over-stimulating. Mentally prepare for the crowds, the unintentional bumps and shoves, the waiting, the dodging, the body heat.

4.  Be polite.  Smile at your fellow-thrifter.  No need to be rude over saving a few bucks.

5.  Watch your stuff!  IF you do choose to take a cart, beware of those around you who might snag an item…or worse —your wallet!


1. Before I go, I think about the worst-case scenario—packed aisles, screaming children, pushy people, picked-over racks, no good finds. If I’m still psyched to thrift, I’ll go. If, after mulling it over and I’m not up for it, I don’t leave the house. I have gone to crazy sale days when I’m not feeling it and have never, ever, ever had a good time.

2. Unlike some of the gals above, I always grab a cart, because I know there’s a good chance I’m going to load it to the gills. There’s also been plenty of times I’ve almost had my arm fall off from trying to carry an insane amount of clothes without a cart. If you do choose to get a cart, mind that sucker! Don’t leave it in the middle of a crowded aisle to go find your friend, don’t block peoples’ way or hurry them along pushing the cart at their ankles—all of that sh*t is annoying. If you wind up in someone’s way (you will!), smile and politely move. Respect your elders and moms with kids.

3. Pull everything that catches your eye and put in your cart. Even if you don’t plan on buying it, there’s no harm in pushing it around and thinking it over. Sale days are not the time to leave something on the rack you’re on the fence about, unless of course you feel like having your heart broken. Before you check out, go through everything you’ve pulled and sort through it (in an out-of-the-way corner).

4. After I’ve hit up my must-shop sections (vintage, dresses, purses, shoes, housewares, art work) and feel like I’m almost ready to go, I make a round of the entire store, paying attention to the racks near the mirrors and dressing rooms. I can’t tell you how many gems I’ve found in odd places due to people having second thoughts or finding stuff doesn’t fit. Also keep an eye out for staff restocking the racks. In sum, keep your eyes open all the time!

5. My final word of advice: Pushiness is a highly unattractive trait; one that’s exhibited far too frequently on sale days. As someone who literally thrifts for a living, take it from me: There’s not a dress, purse or paint-by-number on earth that’s worth acting undignified over. When you see someone who’s scored big, smile, compliment their finds and go home knowing that your day will come.

A huge thank you to Rae, Lisa, Rose and Jill for sharing your hard-earned pearls of wisdom! I <3 you girls!

Have great holiday weekends all…



store review: savers on lake street

Savers Thrift Store, Lake Street, Minneapolis

I have a love-hate relationship with Savers thrift stores. I love that they have high standards for quality, and that the stores are clean and open on Sundays. But it drives me up the wall that their prices are ridiculously high. This Savers, the only one in Minneapolis proper, has been a go-to thrifting spot for me for years, so I figured I’d tell you all a little about it, and some tricks for saving even more money there.


Vintage clothes: Unlike some of the other Savers, this one has a whole section devoted to vintage in the middle of the store, with men’s and women’s wear mixed in together. I’ve found some really bitchin’ dresses from the ’70s-’90, 1960s wool skirts and men’s button-downs. Prices are fair, with dresses running anywhere in between $4-12, skirt for $6-8 and blouses for $5 here.

Books: Taking up a good portion of the store is an assortment of well-sorted and in-good-condition books. I’ve spotted some really nice art/coffee table-type tomes, too.

House wares: This Savers is in many ways my Target alternative, when it comes to household necessities. It’s easy to pop in here to see if they have a casserole dish in the size I need, or a baking pan—usually there’s something here that will work. I’ve also found really nice decorative plates here, and little vases to add to my collection.


New clothes: A lot of the store’s clothing is newer, cheap clothes (Target brands, Old Navy), marked stupidly high, especially considering they’re used.

Picked over-ness: Since this Savers is close to a light rail stop and right in the middle of town, it can be crazily picked over, especially if you stop in later in the afternoon or evening or during sale days.

Where does the money raised here go? Into some rich folks’ pockets! Savers is a for-profit thrift store, and it is privately owned and operated. They do work with local nonprofits, however, which can lead to some confusion, with shoppers thinking what they spend at Savers is going solely to support philanthropic efforts. It works like this: The selected nonprofits will solicit donations from folks like you and me, and then turn over those donations to Savers, who in turn, pays them per bag or box of merchandise. Donations are then sorted by Savers staff. What’s not deemed acceptable for sale in their stores is then resold (and sometimes donated) to retailers in developing countries. So, Savers not only makes money from what they sell in their retail stores, but also by selling unwanted merchandise they got for free to other retailers.

According to their website, since 1954, Savers has paid more than $1 billion to fund nonprofits’ programs and services. And that is nothing to sniff at. You can learn more about the company here.

Here are some of my favorite finds from this shop:

I love this dress! The super faded floral print is sweet, and it has pockets, a flattering cut and lady-like length. It has this soft sheen, too, which I love. I believe it was $3.99 and it came with a matching belt.

This plate makes me so happy. Now, where to hang it?

I can’t take these leather kitten-heeled, wooden-soled beauties off! Check out the bows! They cost $4 (originally priced $8, but bought on a half-off day).

Go here to find: Vintage clothes, good quality housewares, nice used books

Selection/Variety: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Quality: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Pricing: ♥ ♥

Organization: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Customer service: ♥ ♥

Cleanliness: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Do they take credit cards? Yep!

Will they accept returns or exchanges? Yes, you can exchange items within seven days of purchase but only with a receipt and the tags still attached.

Other helpful hints: Click here to sign up for Savers’ e-newsletter. You’ll get advance notice of special sales and coupons. Sweet right? If you’re a  college student, or still have your ID, flash it on Wednesdays and take 50 percent off your entire purchase. Also keep an eye out for a calendar (usually found by the register) that lists the sales happening that month and any other special promo days (senior citizen discount days, for example).

While you’re there: On Tuesdays, from 3-7 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 8 a.m.- 1 p.m.,  hop across the street to the Midtown Farmers’ Market. If I’m famished after thrifting on a Tuesday after work, I stop and pick some yummy takeout from one of the food vendors or some veggies. Or, if you’re like my boyfriend, you can drop $5 and get a piping hot pizza at Little Caesars, which is in the same strip mall at Savers. Aldi, Wells Fargo, Family Dollar,  a barber shop and a liquor store all have a spot there, too.

Where it is: 2124 East Lake St, Minneapolis

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Contact: 612.729.9271,

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m so stoked for another long weekend. Two in a row! How lucky can one girl be??