Goodwill Tour of New Jersey with Ruby

Goodwill is a wonderful organization that not only recycles more than two billion pounds of clothing and household goods every year , but creates job-training opportunities for people in need of work. Above, Lumberton, NJ.

Ruby was off from school this week and was desperate to get out of town, even if just for the day. I agreed that a road trip was in order, and since we love to thrift shop, I thought it would be fun to hit all the Goodwills between New York and Philly, get a cheese steak at Jim’s Steaks in Philly and get back to the city by dinnertime.

Book display, Maple Shade, NJ

There are nine Goodwill stores between New York and Philly (all in NJ), and I laid them out in order so we could systematically punch one address after another into the GPS. Ruby decided against Jersey City (too picked over) and Newark (she and her dad once got lost there on the way to Great Adventure and she insisted Newark was too “scary.”) We didn’t go to Harrison, Trenton or Springfield because we got hungry and I developed what I call “shopping arm” (when my arm gets sore from the repetitive motion of pushing hangers right to left.) And Ewing Township didn’t answer their phone, so we skipped it.

I couldn't help but consider a 70s Robert Plant poster shellacked on wood. I passed because it had water damage.

But we did make it to four Goodwills: East Brunswick, Lumberton, Maple Shade and Pennsauken. All were similar in terms of merchandise (lots of faded 80s black cotton sweaters, mismatched china and VHS tapes) but wildly different in style and size. All were surprisingly crowded. And all had more than a few customers using supermarket-sized shopping carts (which Ruby and I, being incredibly selective, couldn’t believe were necessary.)

East Brunswick, NJ

East Brunswick, our first stop, had a tiny storefront in a mini-mall that was called, “The Village Green” (only in suburbia.) The first thing I noticed was a huge Easter display in the window, and nearby, a collection of garish Christmas sweaters, which of course we weren’t interested in purchasing but bears mentioning (thrift stores offer holiday merchandise year round.) We were complimented on our selections more than once by the Juno-esque cashier. And we were thrilled to discover that not only was everything with a red tag 50% off, but Ruby got an extra 15% off with her student ID (which we took advantage of at the other Goodwills as well.) Score: 5 items for $18.11.

One of the distracting employees in Lumberton, NJ

Lumberton was next. I was hoping to see a historic house that was a stop on the Underground Railroad, but we couldn’t find the address on the internet. My disappointment quickly subsided, however, when I saw how enormous the Lumberton Goodwill was. And appropriately, Bon Jovi was playing. And although the salespeople certainly weren’t cute OR young like our cashier in East Brunswick, they carried on the funniest (to me, not to them) conversations, which distracted me (I followed one employee around the store for about 10 minutes just to get a photo of her crazy hair style for my friend David.) Score: 4 items for $9.22 (I passed on the Galician microwave potato chip maker, which I now regret.)

Maple Shade, NJ

Maple Shade was the smallest Goodwill, but very well-organized and oddly, “decorated” by an employee who obviously took great pride in “their” store. Score: 3 items for $2.65.

Maple Shade, NJ. Was I the only one who thought of Sartre when I saw this "No Exit" sign surrounded by old vinyl, or did a clever employee do it on purpose?

By the time we got to Pennsauken, we were burned out and very hungry, so it was no surprise that we didn’t score anything (also, being so close to Philly, it seemed even more crowded than the others and therefore more picked over.)

Pennsauken, NJ

We flew through Cherry Hill (no Goodwill), Camden (no Goodwill), over the Ben Franklin Bridge and into Philly and were eating cheesesteaks within half an hour (Score: 2 huge cheese steaks for $15.) Of course, we checked out some vintage stores in Philly but the prices were higher (when you call a store “vintage” rather than “thrift,” the prices go up) and we didn’t find anything we liked anyway.

We felt as tired as this guy, whose wife was focused on linens, after a while.

Our bargains (average price: $2.50 per item) were well worth the trouble of poring over racks of freakishly unstylish clothing. I got a sweet 70s ruffled cotton peasant top, an 80s bias cut skirt and an 80s black stretch top. Ruby got great stuff, including an 80s embroidered ethnic vest, an 80s floral stretch dress and a little leather purse. Next Goodwill tour: Connecticut.

The reward for all our hard work: Cheese Steaks at Jim's on South Street.

About Elisa Casas

ELISA CASAS (that’s me) was born and raised in New York City. I have a BFA in Photography from NYU and worked as a photojournalist and talent scout for major record labels before opening Chelsea Girl in 1993. I also owned Laurel Canyon Vintage, Clutch! and a popular cafe, City Girl Cafe, and I starred in the groundbreaking Sundance series, “Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys” with my best friend, David Munk. I like pomegranates, clouds, “Exile on Main Street,” birthdays, ancient ruins, the beach, abstract art, cypress trees, “Annie Hall,” old diamonds, Almodovar, clam shacks, surprises, Anne Boleyn, popcorn, “Rebecca,” margaritas, pugs, apple pie and castles in Spain. I live in TriBeCa with my fashionable daughter, Ruby. Follow Chelsea Girl on Facebook- and Instagram-ChelseaGirlVintage
This entry was posted in "vintage is green", Cheese steaks, chelsea girl, elisa casas, Goodwill, Sustainable clothing, thrift, vintage clothing. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Goodwill Tour of New Jersey with Ruby

  1. Lydia Lacey says:

    you go goodwill girls! I love the plan of taking a tour and hitting a bunch – I’m inspired and going to try the same on my next trip out to nowhere – thx ladies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s