Secondhand stores offer value and repurposing for home furnishings
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If you want to refresh or even redo your home décor, a second-hand store can help you create a new look for the new year.
“I think people can find unusual pieces they can’t find in other furniture stores,” said Stephanie Mogavero, owner of Sequels Home Furnishings in Rochester. “New furniture stores all have similar styles and brands. Secondhand stores have better quality than newer pieces. I think we have the largest selection of very fine, high-end, gently used furniture in the area. To me, it’s really easier to find unusual pieces that make a room gorgeous without spending an arm and a leg. People come in and are amazed at what we have.”
She added that some shoppers come from even as far as Buffalo and Syracuse to peruse her 23,000-sq.-ft. store and she has shipped items to Texas and Florida.
“You get good quality furniture,” said Anne Fischer, owner of Anne’s Consignment Connection in Rochester. “A lot of the stuff made these days is pressboard with no hardwood.”
She stocks furniture, artwork and other types of décor.
Shopping thrift can also help decorators build an eclectic, lived-in look that’s very popular now, rather than a forced, overly matched appearance. Bland, monochromatic “basic” decor lacks the story and character of mismatched yet coordinating items anchored by an interesting statement piece.
Meg Sarnoff, co-manager of Sweet Charity in Fairport, said that shoppers enjoy perusing her story not only to support Advent House, a hospice home in Fairport, but also to browse for bargains.
“We sell at better prices, and there’s no pressure,” she said. “We have some who come in once or twice a week, maybe just to hang out. Sometimes they buy and sometimes they don’t.”
Unique items are easy to find, as they are donated from estates.
Joe Battaglia, owner of The Estate Marketplace in Spencerport, carries both estate items and repurposed home items. For example, a scuffed-up antique dresser may be restored and remade into a changing table for a nursery.
“Repurposing is a big part of this,” Battaglia said. “A lot of our vendors enjoy repurposing items to give them new life. We’re very much about keeping stuff out of landfills.”
As Fischer said, his items are of far better quality than today’s mass-produced pressboard furniture.
“They don’t make things like they used to,” he said. “When you buy things secondhand, most of the time it’s well-made and people respect that. I feel like these businesses as a whole, the entire market of consumer goods is changing where new stuff is made to break. There’s new iPhones every few months. You have to buy another new one.”
Thrift stores and resale shops keep good stuff in circulation.
A Second Thought in Rochester supports Heritage Christian Services, a nonprofit. Manager Ana Pravato said that customers like knowing that their shopping helps support Heritage’s funding of local charities and its own mission of helping people with developmental disabilities.
“We’re so fortunate that people see the quality of what they’re purchasing and getting a great deal,” Pravato said. “And they’re catching onto cool, unique pieces at a fraction of the cost. Young people love the vintage look. It’s a win-win for all. The key is that thrift is doing well because it’s part of something bigger.”
Among middle-aged shoppers are ones who want to find things like Mom and Grandma had, which Pravato said, “is a big connection of touching people’s hearts and seeing something they remember that is no longer there.”
Older adults who are downsizing often turn to resale shops—especially those supporting charitable causes—as a means of dispersing items they no longer need.
“They like to know they can make a difference,” Pravato said.
Try these tips for finding good household items.
• “Pick up the cushions to look underneath.
• “Inspect the whole thing.
• “We look for things like dovetail drawers in dressers. See if a piece feels sturdy.
• “Talk with the people there at the store and see what they know about the item. If you see it and you’re wavering, ask yourself if you come back and it’s gone, will you be upset? If you would be, it’s time to buy it.”
— Meg Sarnoff, co-manager of Sweet Charity in Fairport.
• “I’ll pull the drawers out to look at the dovetailing and make sure it’s real wood.
• “Check the smell and look of upholstered pieces. There can be spots. Has an effort been made to clean it? In general, look at the stitching and that nothing’s coming apart. The smell is a big factor. Is it from a smoke-free home?”
— Joe Battaglia, owner of The Estate Marketplace in Spencerport.
• “A mistake a lot of people make is they’re confused as to whether it’s a solid piece of wood or a veneer. Some of the highest quality furniture from Stickley have beautifully finished veneers, which allows a piece to have a different character with inlays. A good piece of furniture will have a solid substrate under the veneer and that’s the difference.
• “Look for dovetail drawers and solid wood. Look for metal, not plastic rails. When you have a curved piece of drawer that makes a drawer you may not see a dovetail.
• “For upholstered furniture, you should look at the tag for the manufacturer. You also have to make sure it’s been cleaned. We clean everything before we put it out. You really do have to be a little more careful with upholstered when you’re buying used. The same with rugs.”
— Stephanie Mogavero, owner Sequels Home Furnishings in Rochester.