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In 2007 I had just moved to Oak Park. I was still in the field of social services then, managing an after school literacy program for at-risk youth in Chicago. I was trying to figure out how to creatively stretch my budget: I needed children’s books for the program. It was the best of times and indeed it was the worst of times: I had sixty highly-motivated, extremely impoverished children who showed up day after day for free tutoring. Can you imagine? All with smiles on their faces, ready for reading and arithmetic enlightenment. The problem was I had only a handful of books to offer during the prescribed “Reading Time.” Exactly six. And they weren’t actually kids books. Okay, they were actually educational reference books, but they had some nice pictures.
This is when I learned of the Economy Shop (103 South Grove). Although I lived in Oak Park, I had yet to explore the wonderful array of thrift shops and resale stores in the area. A coworker informed me of an amazing store in my own neighborhood where I could find anything and everything I needed: the Economy Shop. Books, clothes, furniture, absolutely anything. Really? Yes, anything. And so a love affair was borne.
The Economy Shop has become part of my weekend ritual: “it’s a house full of stuff you can buy” touts their website; let me rephrase, if I may: it is a house full of stuff you want to buy. They have new and unexpected merchandise each week. The Economy Shop exists by selling donated items, so if you’re considering giving away those unused items in your home or garage, consider that the sale of these donated goods would benefit six local charities including my personal favorites: Hephzibah Children’s Center and Animal Care League.
The meticulous shop is maintained by an army of dedicated volunteers. The staff, comprised entirely of volunteers, sort, price, shelf, and sell the items -all with a smile on their face, I might add. Nancy Hines, of Oak Park, can be found faithfully tending the sewing and crafts department in the basement each week. She’ll remember your name and even make suggestions to help you along with any projects you’re working on. The customers are always in a good mood, too. Who wouldn’t be? Finding a deal is so much fun!
The Economy Shop is open one Thursday and two Saturdays of each month. You can find the schedule at www.economyshop.org. The shop has sixteen departments of bargains: separate rooms, that is, in an old Victorian house; it truly is a novel establishment. There are three floors of deals to be found and I shall share my top deals and steals from each floor:
The First Floor: This floor hosts antiques, women’s wear, and the Last Chance Boutique where one can find gifts and cards. This is one of my favorite rooms. I am admittedly old-fashioned, and I love to send and receive cards, so finding a card for a quarter makes me one happy shopper. I recently purchased my Christmas cards here for $2.80. They are from the Frank Lloyd Wright gift shop, and I know a bargain when I see one. I found a brand new pair of J. Crew pixie pants for $6 in the women’s career department. I was debating spending the $88 ticket price at J. Crew, when I scored these.
The Second Floor: This floor has men’s wear, accessories, and housewares. When one of my former students wanted to join a swimming team, but couldn't afford the necessary gear to participate in the class, I found a pair of new swimming trunks for him here for just $2. Every winter I lose one glove to every pair I own: I was considering investing in those glove clips for children, when I learned I could buy a pair of gloves for half the price here, $2.
The Basement: Well, this is just a little slice of heaven for all bibliophiles and for all those who love that wonderfully scratchy sound that those beautiful albums sold here have to offer. There are also electronics and toys. My favorite planter is also a basement find (a mere $3!).
Eventually the shelves of my children's after school program overflowed with books. Great books. And the children devoured them. I think of those who choose to donate to the Economy Shop, and I have to wonder if they have any idea where their items may end up or how happy they've made a slew of tiny bookworms. Have you donated to the Economy Shop or shopped at the Economy Shop? If you've shopped there, what has been your favorite find? Do you have a favorite room that you like to shop in?