field trip: William Temple House Thrift Store

William Temple House Thrift Store: wall sign with vines

Part of me wants to keep William Temple House Thrift—or WTH as I refer to it in texts with my friend Jeff—a secret all to myself (as if I'm the only one who shops there), but how selfish is that? So I'm sharing. WTH is my favorite thrift store in Portland, not that I haven't found great deals at other stores, like Teen Challenge (TC) down in Milwaukie or the many branches of Goodwill (GW). But WTH has long been my favorite secondhand shop in town, one I walk over to most weekends, now that I'm living downtown.

First, prices on many items are on the low side compared to GW and especially considering WTH's uptown location on NW Glisan between NW 21st and NW 23rd, a block from Trader Joe's (TJ). Merchandise rotates frequently. I regularly find high-quality clothes here, often on the sales racks at 50% or 75% off the ticket price, meaning I sometimes find beautiful, like-new oversized linen button-downs for around $4 or Saks-designer dresses for $12. It's rare that I leave WTH without something in hand, even if it's just a cheap staple remover whose curved metal teeth remind me of snake fangs, something I've long wanted as a simple way to keep from nicking my fingernails when removing the occasional staple but could technically live without—and have for years. But for 15 cents on sale, why not add that tool to my home office?

William Temple House: suit jackets and swimsuits

William Temple House: green-topped vintage desk

The WTH furniture selection is large and varied, offering beat-up antiques, the occasional mid-century piece in need of refinishing (like my Drexel hutch), heavy vintage desks made of solid wood and dovetailed joints, and many upholstered-oak chairs from the 1980's (which, by the way, will soon be making a decorating comeback, if you want to get the jump on a future trend—I'm already seeing hipster types snatching them up).

William Temple House chair lineup

The last couple weekends, there sat two vintage No. 14 Thonet bentwood chairs with peacock seat designs, the black Thonet stamp visible on the underside, only a little rickety and waiting to be claimed for $65 each by some lucky thrifter in search of a design classic.

William Temple House Thrift: vintage Thonet No. 14 bentwood chair with peacock seat design

The WTH art selection is also better than at most thrift stores, with many original paintings and numbered prints which Jeff sometimes resells at a markup in his space over at Hawthorne Vintage to those with deeper pockets and less time.

William Temple House Thrift: art, rugs, shoes, accessories

During this last trip to WTH, Jeff bought a big vintage plywood console with copper hardware and tons of storage, the top of which he'll be refinishing and under which he'll affix four large vintage industrial casters found a few months ago over at the Beaverton ReStore. It'll be a great, functional piece for resale at Hawthorne Vintage, once rescued.

William Temple House Thrift: vintage blond-veneered plywood console

William Temple House Thrift: tag specials

While GW sales change weekly, WTH discounts older merchandise by rotating their color tags monthly: white, yellow, green, orange. Sometimes waiting for the tag-change day can pay off with additional savings, but as with all thrifting, if you really like something, don't wait. If it's something special, most likely someone else is eyeing it, too. I lost out that way once at WTH on a vintage Deco Seth Thomas clock, which looked almost exactly like my great-grandmother's, priced at $40. Even though Jeff had gotten to the store for me the morning of the color-change day (the first of that month), according to a clerk another customer had swooped in and snagged the clock not 30 minutes before for $20 (proving that the earliest bird does pluck more worms).

As a fun bonus, the last three days of each month, WTH customers can draw slips of paper from a little box giving them extra savings at the cash register, adding a little gamble to the transaction. Maybe you'll get an extra 10% off or possibly 50%—who can say? It just may be your lucky day.

William Temple House Thrift: Customer Appreciation Sale window sign

William Temple House Thrift: front window display

On top of all this, the Episcopalian WTH store isn't overtly religious—unlike TC or Salvation Army with their Christian-music selections and, for TC, Sunday closures. The WTH clerks are also low-key and helpful when needed, smiling but asking no questions as I snapped photos for this post after making a purchase last weekend: a lightweight wool tunic ($7) and a large vintage beveled oval mirror for the bedroom, also for just $7. (If you read the blog, you already know about my mirror obsession, particularly with round ones.)

William Temple House Thrift Store finds: vintage beveled oval mirror, vintage Stiffel brass lamp, orchid cachepot

William Temple House Thrift: "All Sales Are Final" sign

One downside to thrifting at WTH, unlike GW, is that all sales are final, no returns or exchanges allowed, so be sure to try on clothes and think through purchases beforehand: wants, needs, and likes. For me, the no-return policy hasn't been an issue so far.

William Temple House Thrift Store, 2230 NW Glisan, Portland, Oregon

Perhaps WTH will become your top thrift store in Portland, too. If so, maybe I'll see you there. Regardless, here's to the thrill of the hunt and the rewards of reuse.

What's your favorite thrift shop in Portland?

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