New Jersey is often seen as discount heaven for most shoppers; outlet malls
and villages abound, as do ‘discount’ shopping giants such as T.J. Maxx, Loehmanns, Ross and more. Where the real bargains lie, however, is in the southern New Jersey town of Moorestown. The Moorestown Friends Thrift Shop, located at 301 Chester Avenue in the center of town, is home to some of the most unbelievably priced – as well as exciting finds – for the most adventurous and thrifty of shoppers. While the shop may not be the largest in the state, it has genuinely top-quality merchandise at prices at least 50% to 80% of retail.
The Shop serves as a fundraising outlet for the preppy, expensive Moorestown Friends School, a pre-kindergarten through high school Quaker-based school founded over one hundred years ago and educating many of the state’s wealthiest families. In a state with such high property taxes as New Jersey, these folks have the means to send their children to one of the finest private schools in the area. These folks also make up a large percentage of donors to the Moorestown Friends Thrift Shop as well.
Based on the corner of Chester and Second Streets in Moorestown, the Shop is open from Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. year round; in case of inclement weather such as snow, you might want to call them first at 856/234-1567 to make certain that the shop is indeed open for business. Credit cards are not accepted, but cash and verified personal checks are welcomed. The shop is staffed solely by volunteers who are associated with the Moorestown Friends meetinghouse and/or school; its long-time manager, Connie Muldowney, is a bright, savvy and cheerful fixture. If you’re contemplating making a donation of goods to the Shop, Connie or one of her assistants will provide you with an on-the-spot written receipt for tax purposes. Donations are very wide-ranging, so just about anything will be accepted gratefully. For larger items such as furniture, you’ll have to get your donation to the shop yourself; if you’re purchasing large items such as furniture, valances, a piano, etc., Connie and the staff will provide you with the telephone number and name of a local mover who works with the Shop in carting home your (larger) purchases; you may also provide your own transportation as well.
What exactly does the Moorestown Friends Thrift Shop carry? Perhaps the question is better phrased “What doesn’t it carry?” I became acquainted with the Shop several years ago when we first moved to town, donating items that did not fit into our new home. Along the way, I developed the habit of stopping by just for the fun of it to see what new and exciting items were now in stock. And along the way, as I continued to drop off donations, I also learned how to scout out some of the best buys in a lifetime!
You can clothe your self, your spouse, and your children from head to toe at the Shop. They carry womens’, childrens’ and mens’ shoes and boots, purses and handbags ranging from Coach to Old Navy to Roxy to beautifully beaded, antique evening bags. As a matter of fact, antiques are a specialty of the Shop. So many of the Friends School alumnae are quite well-traveled, and it’s not a surprise to find gorgeous, brand new dolls, trinkets and souvenirs from around the world at the shop; it goes without saying that the clothing items include Chico’s, Express, L.L. Bean, Chanel, Helmut Lang, Christian Dior, Versace, Lily Pulitzer, and top-name brand childrens’ clothing lines. Many of the children’s items were hand-made and are beautifully crafted, worn maybe once or twice, and donated to the shop after the children outgrew them. You’ll find shoes, socks, briefs, bras, panties, slips, pantyhose, tee shirts, blouses, skirts, jeans, shorts, slacks, jackets (seasonal and separates), gloves, mittens, scarves, hats, briefcases and so much more in stock on a regular basis. (Items not in mint condition for re-sale are donated to a local womens’ and childrens’ shelter in Burlington County.) Don’t forget that you’ll also find umbrellas, ponchos, ski boots, shawls, even sombreros! Again, bear in mind that many of the items for sale were brought back from other countries throughout the world, and are truly one of a kind; at least 35% of the shop’s inventory is brand-new, with its original wrapping, tags and boxes. The Shop carries an incredible selection of glamorous evening wear, from full length dresses to cocktail dresses, dressy shoes and yes, even tuxedos and tuxedo shirts, ties and cummerbunds as well.
While fabulous clothing ranging from good to great to new condition is a staple of the Shop, there’s always something for every member of the family as well. Tons of stuffed animals, Barbies, educational toys, games, sports equipment, Beanies and more are in inventory on a regular basis; the Shop also has a fabulous selection of both new and used books. In addition to some genuinely very old books and used books (fiction and non-fiction alike), the Shop is the beneficiary of the overstock publishing of a local book publisher, who donates extra copies of brand new books to the store on a weekly basis. Interested in collectibles? At some point in time, I’ve seen the following gracing the store’s shelves and generally under lock and key: Waterford, Lalique, Swarovski crystal, Lenox, Boehm, Hummel, Goebel, Mikimoto, solid gold coins, jade pieces, and much more. If you see an item locked away in a case, just ask a shop volunteer to open the case so that you can better inspect it. I don’t personally know everything about all types of collectibles, but I do know that the Shop carried militia, antique swords, medals both new and antique, decades-old photographs in their original frames. coin collections and much more. Jewelry selections range from the truly antique, solid gold, solid silver, gem stones to costume jewelry – rings, necklaces, new pierced and clip earrings, pearls, bracelets, even some extraordinary hair clips and pins.
Now that we know that the Shop can clothe and body and enrich the spirit with good reading and truly unique collector’s items, we can now get back to basics! Local folks have been know to furnish their entire shore or second homes with findings at the Moorestown Friends Thrift Shop. Selections range from everyday basics – cookware, pots, pans, tablecloths, linens, towels, blankets, large, small and one of a kind paintings, flatware, lamps, lighting fixtures, cookie cutters, wreaths, drapes, full window treatments – to the larger items such as a complete dining room set, a complete kitchen set with chairs, head boards, footboards, patio furniture with and without cushions, armoires, chests, night tables, end tables, hutches, wheelbarrows for use or for decoration, dozens of floral arrangements, sofas, loveseats and formal chairs (including both fabric and leather). Again, be certain of how you will get these larger items home – and what it will cost – or your fabulous buy may end up costing you more in shipping than the purchase itself! From October through January, the Shop carries tons of holiday decorations and gifts; after the holidays themselves, their stock swells to include mostly brand-new (but unwanted by the recipient!) gift items and decorations again.
If you’re heading off to the Moorestown Friends Thrift Shop, plan on spending at least one hour there. It will probably take you that long just to learn the ‘lay of the land’ as to where everything is physically located. Bring lots of cash, comfortable shoes, and an adventurous spirit, and you’ll most likely have the truly shopping adventure of a lifetime!