South Philadelphia favorite Philly AIDS Thrift celebrated its eighth anniversary this past weekend – and it has a lot to celebrate as a local style hub as well as a charitable organization.
The store, which is located right off South Street, is a potpourri assortment of secondhand gems that has been attracting locals and tourists alike. This season, guests are welcomed to vivacious autumn and Halloween-themed displays throughout the store’s ground floor. A few steps away is a staircase that leads to even more treasures, which are hidden in the expanding vintage clothing and books sections.
The vast hodgepodge of items might seem overwhelming, but visitors at Philly AIDS Thrift have absolutely no qualms about it and continue to return to the store.
“We have regulars that come in at least once a week, but we also get lots of people from out-of-town that come all the way down here just for the store,” said Brooke Reeder, a cashier and long-time shopper of Philly AIDS Thrift.
Reeder has been working at Philly AIDS Thrift for the past two years and has been an avid “thrifter” for the past 20. She said she loves seeing the diverse groups of people that walk through the store’s front doors, and there are certainly a lot of shoppers.
“We probably get a couple hundred people in here a day,” Reeder said, “and they are of all ages, creeds, religions, races. There was always diversity here.”
From teenage girls coming in after school to buy vintage kicks, to established adults buying kitschy home décor for their living room, the types of customers varies immensely.
“You can find just about anything here. There’s so many things to see,” Reeder explained.
Jessica Wolfert, a senior art student at Temple University, said she loves the unique items that Philly AIDS Thrift has to offer.
“It’s a place where you can find ‘one-of-a-kind’ items, in the sense that you probably won’t meet someone who has the same thing,” Wolfert explained.
In a world of “fast fashion” where the latest sequined H&M sweater is one click away online, the unpredictability and patience of thrifting is quite refreshing to shoppers.
“I feel like I could spend a day and a half looking through everything,” said Kandace Kohr, a casual shopper at Philly AIDS, “…I like the idea of finding something awesome after searching for a while.”
Not only is Philly AIDS Thrift a mecca for the frugally fashionable, but it is also a reliable fundraiser for the AIDS Fund. The thrift store has raised $676,000 to date and recently donated $20,000 to the Mazzoni Center to expand their HIV-testing facility.
Mazzoni Center has been providing healthcare services to Philadelphia’s LGBT community since 1979 and is one of the first AIDS service organizations in Pennsylvania.
Philly AIDS Thrift’s passion for giving back to the community and increasing HIV/AIDS awareness is commendable and certainly has a positive impact on the city. The Mazzoni Center was recently re-modeled and is a valuable resource for HIV testing in the area.
Although thrift shops are prevalent in most American cities, they are especially a vibrant aspect of Philadelphia’s style culture. When the hip kids (and Miley Cyrus) are shopping for the coolest garbs at Philadelphia’s secondhand stores, it definitely reveals a sense of style that Philadelphia represents.
Philadelphia style is very much so reflective of the city’s artsy and eccentric nature. There is always a strong “throwback factor” in the city’s fashion scene. It’s not overly trendy or modern – it’s a mix of the coolest digs from past decades all melded together into an unintentionally edgy style. And what better place to find the best retro
“I know that New York is also a big thrifting city,” Reeder explains, “but there is something about Philly that is very much so about going to thrift shops and buying clothes there. This store is definitely a part of Philly’s culture.”