Now the Thrifty Snicker is willing to bet that right up there with knowing where to score the best thrift bargains her readers often long to know nuggets of arcane Austin history. In that regard, your bargain blogger does not disappoint!
After the South Congress bridge was completed in 1910, southern tracts of land were accessible and ripe for development. Mr. John La Prelle stepped right up to the plate and developed much of the area around south Congress Avenue but not before assuring that his own neighborhood would meet his exacting standards and those of other affluent Austinites. In a book touting “Austin’s Restricted Resident’s District” readers are assured that La Prelle Place is the right choice for those who want a “City Man’s Home that is closely associated with every phase of city life and located as to benefit from every forward civic movement.” Perhaps unsure of what constituted a City Woman’s Home, Mr. La Prelle invited his lovely bride to name a major thoroughfare in the area. The missus promptly and fondly recalled a beloved relative and Oltorf Street was thus christened.
With what is likely the city’s most, ahem, “colorful” grocery store anchoring the Oltorf and Congress intersection, it’s unsurprising that the Family Thrift Center in the strip on the northeast corner should be equally wild and wooly. And indeed, thrifters should bring elbow pads, a keen eye and plenty of patience to this mecca of used merchandise. Chaos, disarray, noise and incomprehensible pricing are the order of the day but for the true bargain shopper, such is of little concern on the path to pecuniary greatness.
Let’s get the worst out of the way, shall we? You will not be able to read the prices. Is that a two? Or a four? Or the equation for a parabola? No one knows. A monkey with a red grease pencil prices everything at Family Thrift Town and you simply will not be able to read the numbers…or even be sure they ARE numbers. So just know that going in and maintain a good sense of humor. If you think you might want it, grab it and let the cashier sort it all out. Although there are other stores by the same name in Austin, this Family Thrift is part of a corporation with locations across the US.
The Thriftstress was easily amused on a recent visit by the hodgepodge of goods that end up together, probably due to the excess of little screaming people that often fill the store. On one shelf a lacy black bra was draped seductively over an air filter, on top of a serving platter. Where is Dr. Freud when you need him? Staffers, albeit friendly, are simply unable to keep up with the hoards of shoppers ranging from harried moms with a cartful of kiddos to Goth teens to aromatic street people looking for a clean, inexpensive shirt.
Clothes are mostly divided by type, some effort at keeping like colors together and absolutely no size distinctions. Overhead signs must be leftover from a completely different store configuration so don’t bother looking up for directions. In fact, if you don’t watch where you’re going you’ll likely trip over the bedding slung across the floor. Wide aisles and plentiful shopping carts make it easier to work your way down the racks and there are a lot of ‘em! This is a big store that buys merchandise from local non-profits. On a recent visit The Snicker was quite taken by the long rack of unworn Chinese-style black jackets, the type worn by busboys in sushi bars everywhere. But more conventional clothes abound and while it’s not likely you’ll trip over haute couture (you’re more likely to trip over a tricycle) recent finds include a two-piece linen Sag Harbor pantsuit, a gorgeous watercolor print Dress Barn frock and a 100% silk Victoria Secret nightgown. Given the warmer temps this would be an excellent time to stock up on shorts and shirts for the whole family for minimal dinero – much of the casual stock appeared to be marked for under $5.
Other summer related goods abound right now including sporting equipment and a 48 quart Coleman cooler for $5.99 (maybe $6.99…couldn’t quite tell but definitely well below retail). On her last visit your Mistress of Thrift was pleasantly surprised by a very large selection of glassware and the huge selection of handbags, some of them name brand and in excellent condition. The piece de’ resistance, however, had to have been the signed and framed Dilbert cartoon for $9.99 (or was it $8.99?). And if you are in need of crutches, enough plastic flowers to open your own funeral home, or a spare computer keyboard, this is the place.
Family Thrift Center is located at 208 East Oltorf Street and is open for craziness 9 to 9 every day except Sunday when it’s open 12 to 7. All major credit cards are accepted and afterwards you can revive yourself at Lucy’s Fried Chicken or New India Cuisine just a block away on Congress.
Stay brave, thrifty friend! The AC is spotty, there are only three dressing rooms, the weird parking lot configuration practically guarantees you’ll be headed the wrong way, and the cashier will not be able to answer any question beyond, “how’s your day going?” But when has such ever stopped you?
As much as it pains the Discount Diva to admit it, she doesn’t know everything thrift. What are your favorite places and best bargains?
Until the next find!
The Thrifty Snicker