bargains are my business.

1 07 2010

my mom always liked new stuff.  and not just any new stuff, the best possible new stuff. if we were in pursuit of say… a care bear (grumpy bear to be specific), she would never just grab the first one that she saw. oh no! she would dig through every single bear on the shelf until she found the one that was perfect. no smushed faces or lopsided expressions, no flat spots or loose threads- the most perfect and pristine care bear in the whole store (possibly a second store in case the first store’s product did not meet standards). it is because of my mother that i utterly refuse to bring home any product in a crushed or dented box. even if the contents is assured to be perfectly preserved. even if i’m just going to tear the box apart the moment i get home. it’s completely irrational, but it’s all i know.

thus, when we visited our first marden’s, i distinctly remember that my mom was less than impressed. we’d heard their commercials on the radio a million times- “i should have bought it when i saw it at mardens”, but the water damaged prom dresses and the nightmare bad lighting were too much for her delicate sensibilities. if you’ve never been to a marden’s, you should know that it is the low budgetiest, discountiest, no frillsiest place you’ve ever been. generally housed in the broke down shell of a bankrupted chain store, the ultra closeout goods get tossed haphazardly onto racks and piled up in bins floating in the aisles. let’s just say that the term “visual merchandising” doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.  oh, and don’t you EVER EVER EVER go into the bathroom. please, just don’t.

anyway, flashing back to 1988, our first foray into rock bottom bargainville was not a success. i distinctly remember my mom singing “i should have left it where i saw it at marden’s” (and being 11 at the time, i of course thought this was HILAROUS). it was too much. everything was dented and imperfect, we would never go there again.

as a late in life bargain hunter, marden’s and i would grow to love each other deeply. i would come to learn that the key is tenacity. that, and a willingness to dig, dig, dig (no matter how suspect the product at hand). for every 25 polyester blend clearance rack tragedies, you might actually find something good. remember that time i found a marc jacobs prairie skirt for $6.50? if you can just get over the weird smells, expired foods, and of course the bathroom…. it’s pure magic. so you can imagine my delight when i heard that a big-ass new marden’s was moving into my backyard (if my backyard was the mall).

sadly, the verdict is: MODERATE DISAPPOINTMENT. the new scarborough marden’s is much bigger, much cleaner, and much more organized than its brethren, yet was somehow sorely lacking in the magic department. i’m hoping that a bit of the newness will fade over time. right now i can still smell the walmart in there, and it just seems too put together in a way that robs me of the joy of the dig. i mean seriously, what are all these medium sized garments doing in one place?  its looking too much like a regular store and a lot less like a smoldering pile of junk ripe for exploration.  i miss that, and have hopes that in time the disorder will be restored. that said,  i did manage to get lost in there for the better part of an hour, and did encounter many tremendous things absolutely worth exploring:

1. first off, PLACE IS FUCKING HUGE. yeah, it’s an old walmart. i doubted at first that they would be able to fill it up, but it has a really good mix of clothing, homegoods, crazy off-brand/expired foods, in addition to things like furniture & carpet (that the portland marden’s doesn’t have).

2. there’s a MOTHERFUCKING FABRIC STORE IN THERE. yeah, i sew. yeah, i have a ludicrous and ever growing stash of fabric- but i always want more. even though i barely sew anything ever, i have a demented fabric lust that knows no reason. i don’t know what fabric store went bankrupt or had a small attic fire, but that shit is nice! one would expect from a marden’s fabric stash lots of cheap and highly flammable prom satins or flannels emblazoned with losing sports teams or faded disney stars headed for rehab… but oh no! tons of nice cotton prints, rolls of high-end decorator fabrics, stacks of unusual and vintagey looking trims. heavenly, and all for about $3.99 a yard or less.

3. hey, is that FURNITURE I WOULD ACTUALLY BUY? yeah, there was some weird stuff. and yeah, there’s a lot of overstuffed nogahyde recliner action. BUT, there were also several perfectly normal and attractive couches and chairs that could have easily found their way into my apartment. well,  if there was actually any room for more couches and chairs.

4. even though there’s better stuff than a lot of the other marden’s, there’s still a HEALTHY DOSE OF HILARIOUS OFF BRANDS and merchandise from the land that time forgot. is that an entire wall of slouch socks? or maybe the novelization of the short lived tv show roswell? if you can’t find a punchline at marden’s, then you’re probably a humorless dick.

5. the shoe department for me in any store is critical, and THIS FOOTWEAR DEPARTMENT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. in the portland store, i’m lucky to find anything this isn’t for grandmas or hookers. not a lot of range there. i don’t know how they did it (did paul lepage have to shank someone?), but there was a boatload of amazing heels from high-endier lines like coach, bcbg, and charles david. they weren’t $3/10 cheap- but the were mostly $50 or under. and they were all stunning. too bad i have no money and a swiftly developing bunion.

i love the fact that discount and thrift stores are joining the mall area, and i don’t care if it’s a sign of the bad economy. now, i haven’t completely warmed up to the new marden’s yet, but i do feel like there is potential chemistry there. let’s just say that at the end of the cocktail party, marden’s scarborough will be getting a rose. and if less scummy and more choices sounds like your idea of a dream date… i recommend heading on over. i’m pretty sure there’s enough to go around.

oh, and if the marden’s in your area has something awesome, please let me know! you know, so i can keep that information to myself and go buy all of it.

p.s. you can check out the rest of the photos of my trip on the broke207 brand flickr account.

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24 responses

1 07 2010
Seth Jacobs

I checked the new Marden’s out last weekend. To me, it’s the kind of place you random stuff you really will use but never felt obligated to buy when in a store full of things you actually went to purchase. Think of it as a “well, we drove over here and even though I never thought of buying this before, I can see this coming in handy” store. I did get a solid laugh out of some of the shit I was seeing people throw in their carts. Some of the stuff I saw was right out of a Sunday afternoon drive up Route 1 to Big Al’s. (that’s the real deal for you hardcore junk collectors aka impulse buyers).

Here is my purchase:

*Camping Tent – sleeps 4 $20 (just in time for this weekend)
*Tupperware – the “always fresh container’s Ten Piece Set $6.99
*Beef Jerky – I love me some Jerky $3.99
*Peanuts – 2 cans for 3 dollars
*Batteries – This is the place to pick them up. very cheap. $1.99 of 4 AAA
*Water Bottle – very sweet design and quality think (Nalgene) 1.00

1 07 2010
bessmarvin

nice haul! marden’s definitely has an intoxicating effect on people. everything is SO CHEAP- how could you possibly go wrong? well, maybe you could go wrong purchasing gently expired foodstuffs… but seriously. every time i’m about to make a potentially bad decision at marden’s i think: who cares if it bursts into flames in low speed collisions or is full of spider eggs- it’s $3 damn it, and i’m gettin it! so far the worst thing i’ve done was purchase some ill fitting pants. p.s. i LOVE big al’s.

1 07 2010
Elizabeth

this store reminds me of a place i shop often where i live.. ( Dirt Cheap ) its filled with left overs an returns from places like walmart, target, dollar tree, jcpenny,sears, an other stores.. they get butt loads of target clearance.. everything normally starts out at 50% off an every few weeks gets marked down some more. i love to shop there!!!

1 07 2010
bessmarvin

i love the fact that there is a store called DIRT CHEAP! i must go there. i also enjoy their cartoon chicken. i bet it’s a lot like marden’s- they also get target clearance and other random crap. i’ve found stuff there from victoria’s secret, american apparel, and they regularly seem to score big lots of high end shoes. weird. next time i’m headed south, dirt cheap needs to watch out, because i am comin!

1 07 2010
Seth Jacobs

if the name of the store is actually “dirt cheap” that’s pretty awesome.

1 07 2010
Elizabeth

the name is really ”Dirt Cheap”….

1 07 2010
amycasey

I’m fine with this Marden’s existing, I’m just really disappointed it is at the expense of the Portland Store. The Portland store was easily accessible on the city bus route, the new store is not. It seems like all things discount / thrift are leaving Portland for the mall-sprawl. Problem with that is…the people who actually NEED to shop at goodwill/Mardens and don’t have a car now have no way to get there. (There is a goodwill on Forrest Ave now, so you can get there by bus, at least).

I don’t own a car, though I’m not in poverty like many who don’t. And, I have a nice boyfriend who often drives me to SoPo. So, I will still have access to the bargains I want (more than absolutely need). I just feel sad for people who won’t. (Also I think the moving of this store is a burden on the elderly who aren’t necessarily impoverished, but are often non-drivers, and definitely love Mardens).

Now, all that said, I will try the new Marden’s and see. I’m not inspired by your report, but after a few recent scores of (CHEAP) Ann Taylor dresses, I can’t give up. Plus Marden’s enables me to jump on any sports bandwagon I want, as they carry clothes from every team/school you could ever imagine.

Maybe I’ll wait until the Marden smell overpowers the Walmart smell. Those are two really distinct powerful scents competing.

1 07 2010
bessmarvin

so it’s true! i suspected as much but was far too lazy to verify. first the st. john st. goodwill and now this! and the truth is that i don’t prefer the south portland/scarborough stores at all. i feel overwhelmed by the mega-store atmosphere and also like everything good is already picked over, or more expensive than it would have been at the old store. i do like the idea of discount stores at the mall, but so far the execution hasn’t really moved me. especially when stores that i love are being lost in the fray. i didn’t even consider the transportation issue. i also don’t have a car (or let’s be truthful, a driver’s license), so i rely on the bus or the kindness of the boyfriend to get me where i need to go. it really is tragic for the people who rely on it as a place on the bus route for affordable goods. hopefully the old space will be filled with something equally discounty. but yeah, paul lepage affiliation and bus route issues aside, i’ll probably still go. i’m addicted to the bargains in a bad way. **shame**

1 07 2010
Seth Jacobs

Marden’s smelled like moth balls to me.

1 07 2010
blackgirlinmaine

I just got back from the new Mardens and have mixed feelings. The fabric and furniture sections are sweet, hell I wish I knew how to sew the fabrics were that enticing.

On the other hand how come all the ladies stuff started at $8.88? I normally go to either the Biddeford or Sanford Marden’s and normally I don’t spend more than $8.88 total on clothing much less for one piece. That said, since I am in a growth phase and desperately needed a few tops I did score a few but again it was strange that everything was so nice and tidy.

I agree that it still has a Wally World feel to it and yes it totally sux that the new Mardens, Goodwill and even Salvation Army is located where you need a car to get there. Due to a severe driving phobia, I don’t drive unless my kids are dying and thankfully the 18yo can drive himself so I like when places are on bus lines. It means occasionally I can shop solo rather than dragging the man along.

1 07 2010
Corey Templeton

blackgirlinmaine “…and yes it totally sux that the new Mardens, Goodwill and even Salvation Army is located where you need a car to get there.” I think this is a good point. It’s interesting that the lowest-cost places (wal mart, BJ’s, etc) are located in places that are only accessible by car. The ‘average shopper’ at those places is considered to be a low-income individual yet most of these consumers have at least one car at their disposal. I will avoid any further anti-automobile ranting and will just say that I miss the Salvation Army that was on St. John Street.

1 07 2010
blackgirlinmaine

Corey, I totally agree with you. My day job puts me in close contacy with low income families and a fair share of my families do not have a car. I am not a native Mainer having only moved here 8 years ago and I have always wondered why the good bargain places seem inaccessible to folks without cars and cans are terribly expensive here.

5 07 2010
bessmarvin

i miss the st. john street goodwill so much. my favorite associate there has been displaced to falmouth, and seems really bummed out about it. i told blackgirlinmaine that we should petition the town to add marden’s to the bus route… but maybe we just need to start our own bus route- bargain bus!

5 07 2010
bessmarvin

you are so right. i felt like some of the stuff was better quality, but the women’s wear definitely not. it was fug and too pricey. as for the car thing- maybe what we really need to do is petition the city to get the new marden’s (and for that matter goodwill & target) on the bus route!

1 07 2010
Elizabeth

i love those slouch socks for around the house… i have one pair that i found at dirt cheap awhile back….

5 07 2010
bessmarvin

maybe it’s been just the right amount of time for slouch socks to come back around again. i mean- stirrup pants have made it back, and they’re way less worthy than slouch socks.

2 07 2010
Kasha

The Marden’s in Waterville has a crapload of newer books for cheap.
Also, the bathroom there wasn’t bad at all…much cleaner than most public bathrooms…yuck.

5 07 2010
bessmarvin

good to know (especially that part about the bathroom). i love thrifting central maine (augusta is my hometown after all). i definitely need to get to waterville and get my bargains on.

9 07 2010
videoportjones

Eh. Went, saw, came away with nothing much. A cleaner Mardens is equivalent to a shitty K-Mart.

11 07 2010
bessmarvin

yeah. i was definitely disappointed. i’m sure they’re just trying to put on their A game now that they’re in the mall area. i think they may just not be aware that their real A game involves complete chaos and disarray.

9 07 2010
InfamousQBert

i have a demented fabric lust that knows no reason

me TOO. and a yarn lust. it’s BAD. fiancee says so at least. personally, i see no better way to die than buried in a mountain of fabulous yarn and adorabe calico prints.

9 07 2010
InfamousQBert

also, totally jealous of your marden’s! we have a store of the same name here, but it’s a christian bookstore. MUCH less interesting. the closest we have to this is Big Lots or Ross. which are great for what they are, but nowhere NEAR as awesome.

11 07 2010
bessmarvin

omg- christian bookstore! that’s diabolical. we don’t have ross, but we do have big lots up here. marden’s (the non evil one) is infinitely better/different than that. big lots gets the same stuff at all of the stores, where marden’s gets random lots of gently fire damaged or crazy closeout merch from wherever. every store is different, and every store is a hot mess of craziness with no semblance of organization. the new store that i wrote about needs a few months to fall into complete chaos and disarray before it’s as awesome as the rest. although i will be hitting that fabric section. so hot. so cheap. it’s probably a blessing that i don’t know how to knit. i don’t think i have enough room in my condo.

24 08 2010
i spy- poop factory. « broke 207

[…] then, we went to marden’s. sure, i talked shit about the new marden’s last time. and the women’s clothing still blows, and all the shoes are still made out of leather. but […]

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