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.





the cold shoulder.

10 05 2010

roughly 7 months ago (when this blog was just a wee baby), i wrote a little post about my deep love for consignment shops in the portland area. well, during that short time, yet another one has cropped up in the cavity where high-end old port used to live.  the shopaholics boutique is located on the corner of exchange and fore,  and i actually noticed the coming soon sign on their door a few months ago. i even took a photo of it (which i can’t post, but we’ll get to that in a minute)! buy you’re not missing much. they use A LOT of fuschia, and have somehow involved the eiffel tower in their logo in a way that confuses me very much (paris= classy?). but my disdain for their logo aside, i thought i would finally roll in and give it a try.  shopping is shopping, not matter how stupid the name of the store. i wandered down there after work on friday, and can’t say that i wasn’t a little hesitant to go in. their website and windows seductively dangle a stock of gently used coach bags and discount seven jeans, which are two fashion priorities that i just don’t have. i got the impression that i wasn’t their chosen demographic, but i had to do it- you know, for journalism (or possibly because i wanted a less dumpy outfit for my evening plans but didn’t have time to go home and change *shame*).

once inside, it’s easy to forget that shopaholics is a consignment store. the bright and clean space is well laid out and tailored in a way that assure’s that A) you’re only seeing their best stuff (no random filler crap), and B) you’re not completely overwhelmed with choices. it’s a high end approach that i think is smart, but that also feels cold and makes me extremely uncomfortable. i’m definitely more in my element amongst the cluttered mishmashes of material objects. but for research purposes, i press on. as it turns out, it’s not entirely consignment, but a mix of very aggressively filtered consignment stuff (they even have a disclaimer on their website about how you shouldn’t be offended when they turn your shit down), and reasonably priced new goods from brands like kensie, arden b, and true religion. it definitely wasn’t what you would call dirt cheap- with prices appearing to range from $30-$70+.  but that said, their selection (though not entirely my taste), was pretty solid. if you’re looking for an interview outfit, killer jeans, or a cocktail dress and can’t afford full retail (but aren’t quite digging in your couch cushions for goodwill money), this place is definitely your best bet. i spotted at least a few items that definitely would have come home with me if they were slightly less expensive, and if the awkwardness hadn’t rolled in to bust up my shopping haze.

admittedly, i should have asked first if it was ok for me to take pictures. i initially snapped a couple shots of a super hot high-waisted faux ombre skirt without incident, but when i turned to start taking photos of the store, the gentleman behind the counter coolly informed me that i needed to stop. apparently it was a privacy issue (even if i didn’t photograph any of the patrons). oops. i haltingly tried to explain that i only wanted to take pictures for my blog… but he  shot back “i know what you’re doing”- as if i was caught taking a poop in the dressing room or something. flushed with shame, i attempted recovery by telling him that i just wanted to write an article about the store, but it was not working out. i passed him my card- NO LOVE. a few more awkward questions smugly dismissed with one word answers, i thanked him and excused myself to finish browsing… and then swiftly but discretely  crab walked my way out the door as fast as humanly possible (to another much more welcoming store that i’ll talk about tomorrow in part two of this sordid saga).

sure, there are a few things that i wouldn’t have liked about the shopaholics boutique regardless of my experience, but it’s rare that i ever write off a venue so quickly, especially one that has quality shopping potential. and sure, i probably could have approached the situation with a little more savvy (ok, a lot more savvy), but my faux pas aside, i shouldn’t have left there feeling angry and ashamed. the bottom line is that it’s a nice store, and i’m sure they’ll thrive just fine without my approval. which is good, because i definitely won’t be returning.