World War II veteran Robert Randolph sports one of his many custom-made suits as he waits for his wife near the front of the store in Wauwatosa,Wis. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller)
The American thrift store has been relishing a stunning return to glory thanks to a host of factors, such as a lagging U.S. economy several years ago, and everyone from young professionals to stay-at-home parents to rising fashion bloggers are praising it for having a treasure trove of items that are friendly on the wallet. Everyone loves to find a diamond in the rough, or in this case, a designer suit on the rack for $10.
But that aside, what does a local Goodwill say about the people who live and work in a particular town? What does a thrift store say about how a town votes, what religious beliefs they hold, or how seriously they celebrate the hometown sports team? Photographer and crafty gal Jenna Isaacson Pfueller set out on a personal mission that was an extension of her own love for all things thrifty to discover just that.
In 2009, both Jenna and her husband lost their jobs and their home in Florida when the recession hit and the bottom of the housing market fell out. For a few years, she took odd jobs as a dog walker, a photographer for children’s birthday parties and a number of other jobs to help pay the bills. Having grown up bonding with her grandfather over weekly trips to the thrift store, Jenna had a well-developed affinity for them, and out of necessity, to temper her frustration with job hunting, she began photographing her trips to thrift stores. The project eventually grew into a full-fledged idea. Over the next three years, Jenna teamed up with Goodwill Industries as a sponsor and took her affable personality and camera on the road to over 120 thrift stores across 48 states to explore America’s thrift culture. She documented the experience in a series called “All Thrifty States.” In April 2013, she completed the lower 48 states, and is seeking a grant to fund her trips to Alaska and Hawaii.
John waits on his wife at a thrift store inside Rapid City Club for Boys Thrift Store in Rapid City, S.D. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) The enormous storage facility for donations in Omaha, Neb., is attached to their tech store, GoodBytes, which sells refurbished computers and accessories, and their outlet store, which sells donated goods by the pound. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Lauren Budin inspects her cart full of finds at a Goodwill store in North Olmsted, Ohio. Budin runs Catitude Vintage and scours thrift stores to find things for the shop. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Sandra, a recent southern transplant from New York, says she shops on her lunch break to relax, often looking for vintage dresses and funky scarves at a Goodwill in Charlotte, N.C. (Jenna Isaacson Pfeuller) Hunter McSorley, 10, shows off his “best find ever” — a pair of boxing gloves, in Boise, Idaho. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Barbie Eriksson shops at Bozeman Community Thrift in Bozeman, Mont., with her son Kace Eriksson, 6, and daughter Malia Eriksson, 4, regularly. The store also sells Hutterite eggs and offers free bread for customers with any purchase. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) The huge bridal section at the Goodwill Reserve Boutique is edited from their donation pool specifically for the shop in Omaha, Neb. The store hosts an annual bridal fashion show using only donated gowns and accessories from the store. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) T-shirts are a great way to get a glimpse of a community’s politics, religion, beliefs and general attitude. Love is 24/7 at a Goodwill store in Louisville, Ky. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Thrift store wisdom in a frame for sale at Second Hand Rose thrift store in Schuylerville, N.Y. Handmade items, like this framed piece, as well as clothing, are a common sight at thrift stores in some areas, but rarer in others. (Jenna Isaacson Pfeuller) A hand-decorated chalice for sale at a Goodwill in Denver, Colo. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Julie Bacher, left, and Clifford Lubilz look for shoes to fit their daughter Jailyn Lubilz, 7, at a Goodwill store in Burlington, Vt. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Bibles fill an entire shelf of the book aisle, for sale at a thrift store in Charleston, W.V. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Framed family for sale at a Goodwill in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Finding photos– weddings, graduations, school pictures, dogs– still in their frames for sale is incredibly common in thrift stores nationwide. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Frank came in looking for a replacement for a broken stove, but instead found some VHS tapes at Union Mission Thrift in Charleston, W.V. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller) Double vision through the window of the Women’s Center Thrift Store in the very thrifty city of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. The town’s main street is lined with thrift stores to benefit various area causes. (Jenna Isaacson Pfueller)