I love to thrift. There’s something uniquely entertaining about sifting through piles and shelves of assorted brick a brack, and something undeniably satisfying about diving into it without a guarantee of success and emerging with something great. It’s like when an old friend texts you out of the blue to say “hello”, or when a butterfly perches right next to you to sun itself. It’s a gift, of sorts. The thrill of the bargain, and a more intimate experience than copy/pasting a coupon code or picking through three dozen identical tops on a clearance rack. Way before Mackelmore brought the joy of the thrift shop into vogue in 2012, I was a wee, wide-eyed treasure hunter combing through Goodwill and Salvation Army stores with my mom and grandma, learning how to spot a deal and bumming a dollar to buy that stuffed animal I liked. As you can probably tell, the love of thrift has stuck with me, so it’s also not surprising that my adulthood finds me managing a secondhand store myself.
Second Chance of Charlotte is a secondhand furniture and home decor store that solicits business on behalf of our charity partner Project 658, a nonprofit that serves at-risk and underprivileged families in the Charlotte area. We’re also a sister company with the Junkluggers, which is where we get the majority of our inventory. In a nutshell, the Junkluggers remove items from their clients’ homes, garages, yards, storage units, or businesses with the pledge to keep as much of the removed material out of the landfill as humanly possible. That means recycling broken TVs and ancient refrigerators, and making a lot of phone calls to make sure every IV pole and dog kennel is given to a nonprofit that needs it. Second Chance was actually started by the Junkluggers to benefit our community with the furniture they remove – because let’s face it, a charity can do a lot more with $100 than they can with a denim upholstered loveseat and five-foot-tall wooden cutlery (no, I’m not making these up). The Junkluggers remove the furniture and bring it to Second Chance, where we clean it, repair it, and send it back out into the world. The proceeds are sent to Project 658, and the original owner of the furniture is sent a tax-deductible receipt for their donation.
On paper, it’s not very exciting. Sure, it’s wonderful to support charity and save the planet, but this kind of business model has existed since forever, and there are thrift stores in every neighborhood of every city in the country. I know I’m lucky. I get to see the exciting parts from the inside. I’m in the nitty-gritty, unearthing twentieth century barrel-top trunks from piles of rubbish and peeling away dry-rotted wicker seats to see the wrought iron bench underneath get a shot at beautifying a garden again. I’ve seen antique tiger oak buffet rescued from someone’s backyard and upcycled into a beautiful bar, and dressers that just needed a few screws tightened and new hardware scooped up by families who couldn’t (or like me, didn’t want to) buy brand new furniture for their homes.
And I love it. I love the silly old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, tired and overused as it is. Because it’s true, and it’s timely. We’ve all heard the statistics about waste – 230 million tons of solid waste are produced by the US every year, approximately. Almost five pounds of waste per person per day, with less than a quarter of it ever being recycled, even though 70% of it could be. We all have different opinions on how big an impact this is having on the globe, but most everyone who uses money to provide for their day-to-day needs can agree that that’s a lot of resources to just toss into a hole in the ground or into an incinerator. And to sentimental types like me, it’s also a lot of wasted opportunity.
So much of what we throw away still has life left in it, and I’m not talking about composting coffee grounds and recycling cereal boxes, as important as those are. I’m talking about what we do when we’re moving and our mom’s armoire doesn’t fit the modern style of our new apartment, or what we do when we need someplace to put toilet paper in our bathroom because the cabinet under the sink is full of cleaners. Sometimes push comes to shove and you need to just haul the armoire out to the curb or go order the cheapest over-the-toilet shelf from Amazon. Life is busy and chaotic — there’s no shame in that. But if you have a moment to pause and think about it, you’ll find much more interesting solutions – on Pinterest, on Google, from your friends and neighbors. You don’t need tons of artistic skill to turn an old armoire into a cool liquor cabinet, just some paint and the guts to use it. And hanging shelving for your TP is only a rescued wood plank and two lengths of rope away, and is almost guaranteed to be more attractive than the plastic thing you found online.
Our goal at Second Chance is to help people see the potential in their unwanted stuff, in the “junk” they ask the Luggers to haul away. Because maybe you don’t have the time/energy/paint/desire to make over your mom’s armoire, but chances are, someone else does. Or someone else didn’t need their weirdly skinny corner shelves anymore, but man wouldn’t they be perfect in your bathroom?
It’s an exciting thing, to find that perfect piece to complete your bathroom or living room or stair landing, and so rewarding when you know you rescued it from an untimely demise, or made it beautiful with your own hands. And the truly exciting thing is that it doesn’t require any more effort of you than a trip to the furniture store or comparing prices online. It’s as simple as making a phone call, or opening Facebook, or picking out paint.
Now, go find that treasure!
Kassidi Gniadek, Store Manager
521-C Pitts School Rd NW
Concord, NC 28027