Once again, Value Village has won the award for “best thrift clothing” in the Daily”s annual Best of Ann Arbor contest. This award has become increasingly easier for them to win in recent years, due to the closing of two of Ann Arbor”s favorite used clothes emporiums, Rag-O-Rama and Scavenger Hunt. There is little competition in town, as only the Salvation Army in Ypsi and the PTO Thrift Shop on State Street offer any selection. OK, so Urban Outfitters has taken to selling “cool, vintage” clothing, but that doesn”t really count, since paying $28 for a used tee shirt is hardly thrifty. I needed to find out if Value Village really deserved this award.
Actually, Value Village no longer exists. They haven”t closed, but they have changed their name to Value World. The reason undoubtedly has to do with a shrewd business plan of some sort. Anyway, to make sure that Value Village, er World, really earned their prize, I went to the recently opened store at 345 North Maple, in the Maple Village shopping center at Jackson and Maple, (Value World can also be found at 1410 E. Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti).
Stepping into the store, the surroundings were immediately recognizable. The new store, which opened about two months ago, is laid out exactly like other Value Village/Worlds: one large room with wall-to-wall shelves and lots and lots of clothes in the middle. The clothing sections are all clearly marked by signs hanging from the ceiling. The racks of men”s clothing contained a varied selection. They have the requisite tee shirt racks, which were packed tight and color-divided. These are always the first stop for the fashion-conscious alternateen who just has to have a (not quite) new REO Speedwagon “85 tour shirt. As for pants, the slacks, jeans and cords all have their own sections, and I even saw a few pairs of cargo pants here and there. Maybe they aren”t cool anymore, or are they?
The women”s section is larger than the men”s, and has areas devoted to blouses, pants and dresses. Here shoppers can discover the rare gem, like the brand new cashmere sweater a friend recently found for $3.20, or a dud, like a homemade, rhinestone-encrusted Christmas sweatshirt. It is the hunt which makes Value World so great. The only problem with Value World”s extensive, and diverse, array of clothing are the lingerie and underwear sections. No matter how hard up a person is, buying someone else”s dirty undies is pretty sketchy. They must sell these items, though, because these sections are always well stocked.
While the clothes do make up the majority of sales at Value World, they also do carry many other items. Cheryl Plichta, the Maple store”s manager-in-training, said the store also see good sales on books and especially kitchen supplies. Besides these top sellers, Value World also stocks, among other things, shoes, stuffed animals, bikes, electronics, toys and quite a bit of exercise equipment. According to Plichta, unlike the Salvation Army, which depends on donation drop-offs at the stores, Value World purchases its merchandise. She said that they buy their goods in bulk from Purple Heart, a charity organization which can arrange to pick up donations from the donor”s home.
For clothes, the prices typically range from about $1.50 for a tee shirt to $3.00 for a pair of pants. Value World also runs sales, which they rotate on a weekly basis based on tag color. For instance, last week all clothes with a green tag were 50% off. There are not many places with deals like that. Whether you want J. Crew but can”t stomach the mall, desire to look retro or only need one Kenny G tour shirt to complete your collection, you can”t go wrong here. The award for “best thrift clothing” definitely belongs to Value Village, I mean World.