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Local Thrift Stores Grab Back-To-School Shoppers With High-End Goods At Low Prices

By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor

Paul DeGriegck knows a bargain when he sees one, so when he spotted four ladder-backed dining chairs in the window of a local thrift store for $4.99 each, he opened his wallet.

Now, they're in his daughter's first apartment.

And DeGriegck, director of thrift stores and business affairs for Grace Centers of Hope, hopes there's a lesson in there for all the metro Detroit parents outfitting kids for their first day of school, furnishing dorm rooms and setting up new grads in grown-up spaces.

You don't have to shop just big box. The four stores operated by Grace Centers of Hope, and the Salvation Army's dozens of local thrift stores are throwing blow-out sales this Labor Day weekend to attract parents, teens and co-eds trying to make a dollar stretch.

"All the back-to-school merchandise is 50 percent off to 90 percent off," DeGriegck said. Salvation Army thrift stores are slashing all clothing prices by 50 percent on Monday to celebrate Labor Day.

Back-to-school jeans, jackets, skirts, bags and trendy T-shirts, plus pots, pans and other household items can be had for just a few dollars at most locations. Forget the misshapen hand-me-downs of yore, today's thrift stores have racks and racks of gently used, brand-name items.

"Because of the economy, people are looking for better bargains; they're shopping and they're finding them," DeGriegck said. "We are definitely getting new customers and our existing customers are shopping more critically. They are looking for bargains. It can't just be a deal, it has to be a really great deal."

The Salvation Army has 33 thrift stores in metro Detroit, with 3,000 new items put out every day, a spokeswoman said. Most recently, they transformed the Royal Oak site into a higher-end locations called Sally's Boutique on Fourth. It's not your father's thrift store.

"We'll get designer purses, things like that," said Lisa Lopresto, assistant manager at the store. "For instance, earlier today -- it hasn't even gone out yet -- but we got eight or 10 pairs of Lucky jeans and a North Face coat. We usually price those items at one-third of they would cost in the store. And then we have the big Labor Day sale, so it's an even bigger discount."

Beyond back-to-school the higher-end Salvation Army offers gear for working professionals like dress shirts, ties and suits.

"We carry a lot of high-end jeans, and men come in all the time for dress shirts, suits, women come in and buy suits," Lopresto said. The boutique has an expanded accessories, shoes and jewelry collection, too.

Through the end of September, the Grace Centers' stores will have special displays with back-to-school items like notepads, backpacks, children's and teen clothing.

"We have some new items from other outlets and we have new items with the tags still on them from people who purchased and just never used it," DeGriegck said.

And when you shop at Salvation Army or Grace Centers of Hope stores, shopping dollars go to a good cause.

"All the profits from our stores go directly to our programs that help 150 to 200 people at a time," DeGriegck said of the center, which is Oakland County's oldest and largest homeless shelter. He added the programs helps "mostly recovering addicts and battered women who are enrolled in a one-year life skills program that takes them in, counsels them and trains them for a new life."

About 85 to 90 percent of employees in Grace Centers' stores are graduates of the life skills program, DeGriegck said, so the program gets people back on their feet, and then employs them. The Salvation Army uses thrift store sales to support its adult rehabilitation services program, which offers housing, counseling, support groups and more to battle drug addiction and homelessness.

Click here  for a complete listing of metro Detroit store locations for the Salvation Army and Grace Centers of Hope.

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