Sarah Ramberg of Belmont, just west of Charlotte, makes her living from thrifting, or as she calls it “junkin’.”
Known as Sadie Seasongoods in her blog, Ramberg offers tips and tricks encouraging people to upcycle and shop at second-hand stores. Her motto is “living a firsthand life using secondhand things.”
“Thrifting is literally my livelihood,” she said.
A Chicago native, Ramberg moved from Florida to Greenville, SC, 11 years ago when her career as a marine biologist led her to work for an environmental engineering company. “It was very technical and I needed a creative outlet,” she said. She started blogging about crafts she’d create from her finds at thrift stores.
When she was laid off five years ago, Ramberg turned her hobby into a career. She’s been featured on the television network HGTV and in magazines like GoodHousing and CountryLiving.
Why thrift shop?
It’s an inexpensive way to scratch the shopping itch, Ramberg said. And, “you’re dollar is going to go further at a thrift store.”
For example, she and her husband picked up a vintage mid-century Broyhill cabinet in Hickory for $200 that would normally sell for about $1,500 new.
Thrifting also is good for the eco-conscious. “To me, it’s a much smaller footprint for decorating my home. I just feel better than buying new everything.”
The Rambergs’ home is about 80% furnished from finds found in secondhand shops.
“We sincerely like the thrill of the hunt,” Ramber said. Each piece is a conversation starter and has its own story of how it was found, why it was chosen or how Ramberg upcycled it.
While growing up, Ramberg said shopping at thrift stores was frowned upon. Ramberg said she didn’t grow up wealthy but her mother disapproved of buying secondhand. “But now, I love it,” she said. “Remove any stigmas from your mind and give it a go.”
Charlotte area has ‘great’ thrift shops
Ramberg’s traveled throughout the Southeast in the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia thrifting and antiquing looking for housewares and furniture.
She maps out her errands to include stops at a couple of stores each week in the Charlotte region. Some of her favorite spots are Assistance League of Charlotte Thrift Shop, any Habitat Restores, Goodwill in Steele Creek, The GW Boutique on South Boulevard and Remix Market in Harrisburg.
“Charlotte has great thrift stores with a great variety,” she said. And, stores like Habitat Restore in Cornelius sets merchandise displays so well, “it doesn’t even look like a thrift store.”
Ramberg’s tips for thrift store shopping
1. Thrift frequently. Shops have no control over the inventory.
2. Where the store is located isn’t indicative of the goods you’ll find in the thrift store. “There’s no guarantee it’s not proportionate to geographic location,” Ramberg said.
3. There’s no consistency in pricing, “and you have to get used to that,” so be open-minded about what you’re willing to pay.
4. If you really like something but the price is too high, go back in a week or two and see if the price is dropped.
5. Not sure if you really want that shirt or clear pumpkin jar? Take it with you while you continue walking through the store so someone else doesn’t grab it.
6. Check out blogs and news sites for the best of thrift shops and other information. For example, last month’s Charlotte Observer’s 2022 Reader’s Choice contest for best thrift shop, and of course, Ramberg’s own blog Sadie Seasongoods. Or just do a Google search.
7. Avoid thrifting on Saturdays. “That’s when everybody else goes so it’s busy.” Also, many stores are closed on Mondays so check the hours before heading down the road.
8. Don’t get discouraged. It’s truly a luck of the draw. “You just never know what you’ll find.”
This story was originally published September 14, 2022 6:00 AM.