Tulsa has an array of fantastic shops and boutiques selling current trends and styles, but shoppers who prefer timeless, more one-of-a-kind looks (and who may find shopping online overwhelming) also have the option of perusing the racks, floors and shelves of Tulsa’s resale and vintage shops. Making something old new again is rewarding – not to mention recycling. In a sense, you can save a small sliver of the world by shopping vintage and thrift shops, while also adding beautiful keepsakes to your wardrobe and home. So before we get into the burgeoning scene of thrift stores and vintage shops, let’s discuss the differences.
The environment of a thrift store can be chaotic, overflowing with clothing from a variety of brands and eras. During the years, thrift stores have become more cognizant of organization, but a shopper may need to dig. And it’s not always a successful venture; even though you find the perfect dress, it may be the wrong size. However, when you try on broken-in jeans that feel made for your figure, it’s like winning the lottery, especially when you get them for a great deal. Thrift stores tend to carry more current brands and clothing from the past decade, but occasionally a midcentury item can be discovered.
Vintage specialty stores, though sometimes stocked with used clothing, typically curate their stores with rare, popular vintage favorites from the past 50 or 60 years. (Note: anything 100 years or older is considered antique.) Shop owners typically forage estate sales or have their buyers on the lookout for valuable vintage items around the country. These shops are on the rise in Tulsa and have provided a haven for vintage pieces deserving of a second chance.
In addition to fashion, Tulsa’s vintage shops also focus on décor – funky furniture and cool kitsch, sleek midcentury minimalist pieces and timeless object d’art. Be prepared to pay quite a bit more for curated vintage items compared to the donated items at thrift stores.
Goodwill Thrift Store - Southwest Boulevard
This location is basically the Goodwill Headquarters in Tulsa. A new Goodwill shopping center was built recently, adding square footage and a shinier façade than its old location down the road. This huge store is one of the most organized and regularly stocked of any of the thrift stores. Though you can find the occasional blasts from the past, especially from the 80s and 90s, rarely do they have true vintage pieces on the racks. Instead, this is a great place for finding basic items – need a white button-down shirt? They’ve got you covered. Looking for a simple black dress? Look no further! During the winter, they have a large, often-changing stock of super well-priced coats. The shoe selection is tops among thrift stores and change seasonally. Gently-used shoes are somewhat difficult to find, but this thrift store seems to only stock the shelves with quality boots, dress shoes and tennis shoes.
For housewares, this location does have some very basic items if you are looking to stock up on cheap plates, but rarely are there high-end or vintage items in this department. Though you can find some interesting décor items, they do not have large furniture items.
Salvation Army - 31st and Garnett
Though the Salvation Army has shut down many of its locations across Tulsa, the 31st and Garnett location is a treasure trove of thrifty finds. As far as clothing, true vintage items make a semi-regular appearance – circle skirts from the 1960s, shiny disco-era tops and dresses. They also have a large selection of current fashion, though nothing particularly high-end. The racks are well organized, and their selection of children’s clothing is massive.
They do have a small corner of household items that may include a waffle iron used just once or the same plates your mom uses. They carry basic, almost kitschy kitchenware from circa 1992. The furniture selection, however, is pretty outstanding. Whether looking for a coffee table, couches or matching bedroom suites, this Salvation Army location is a great place for inexpensive pieces to fill your guest room. Pro tip: all furniture is 50 percent off on Saturdays.
Retro Den - 1216 S. Harvard Ave.
Retro Den sells a carefully curated collection of vintage furniture, rugs, lamps, wall hangings and rare knick-knacks. The open space is filled with swoon-worthy seating – like those sleek, low-slung midcentury couches and chairs that make a design statement no matter where you place them. This is the place to go if you want to repurpose an old library card catalog or want to dress your walls with old lithographs and prints. The knowledgeable staff can also help you spot a specific furniture or decor piece that can tie a room together. Home styling services are also available if your living space needs a full makeover.
Retro Den also has an awesome selection of succulents that make a great gift or add some decor to any window shelf. The staff will help you choose succulents to create a large centerpiece or small display using their vintage containers and planters.
If you fancy vintage furnishings and decor, take a nod from some of the best interior designers in town and head into Retro Den for some inspiration.
Vintage Vault - 1134 S. Harvard Ave.
Vintage Vault stocks the majority of its store with fantastic furniture from a variety of eras. The shop is playful with its collection of meadow gold hued couches and avant garde ashtrays, hearkening a time when people could and would smoke anywhere. It’s always a treat to roam around this space, ogling their dreamy couches, outrageous wall art and pristine glassware.
They also have a decent selection of clothing, though the stock does not change often. They have a great collection of accessories, like purses and clutches, jewelry, hats and belts that can add vintage charm to any ensemble. They also have a good selection of old vinyl to flip through and some fun vintage t-shirts and pearl snaps.
Cheap Thrills Vintage - 3018 E. 15th St.
Perhaps Tulsa’s original vintage store, Cheap Thrills was known as the place to shop for your 80s themed party or Halloween costume. But as vintage clothing became more popular among everyday fashionistas, Cheap Thrills has come out on top with its ever-changing selection of lovely frocks, hilarious vintage tees and unique accessories.
Though the shop is small, it is mighty. You can find gorgeous formal dresses for that special occasion (even weddings) or a finely-tailored dress that will become your new work staple. You may find myself popping in to this shop almost weekly just to see what new items the owner has added to the racks. If you are looking for something specific, do not hesitate to ask. Not only is she knowledgeable about vintage fashion, she is happy to help you find the perfect piece remade for you.
Animal Aid Thrift Store - 3307 E. 15th St.
This little store is packed with an "upscale" selection of clothing and housewares, all while benefiting a great organization. (Animal Aid is a non-profit animal welfare organization dedicated to saving sick, injured and abused stray dogs and cats.)
An original Tulsa mallrat, Angela Evans grew up hanging around retail monoliths as a child. She went from a loitering teen to an employee of numerous boutiques, shops and large box stores. She learned about fashion, fit, size and brands. Now, she eschews the malls for places more adventurous, like thrift stores and vintage shops.