Charlotte NC, a woman who sells thrift stores for a living, gives advice

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Sarah Ramberg from Belmont, North Carolina writes a Sadie Seasongoods blog, encouraging people to recycle and buy from thrift stores.

Sarah Ramberg from Belmont, North Carolina writes a Sadie Seasongoods blog, encouraging people to recycle and buy from thrift stores.

Courtesy of Sarah Ramberg

Sarah Ramberg of Belmont, just west of Charlotte, lives on thrift, or as she calls it “junkin.”

Known as Sadie Seasonal Items in his blog, Ramberg offers tips and tricks encouraging people to recycle and buy from thrift stores. His motto is “live a first-hand life using second-hand things”.

“Savings are literally my livelihood,” she said.

A Chicago native, Ramberg moved from Florida to Greenville, South Carolina 11 years ago when her career as a marine biologist took her to work for an environmental engineering firm. “It was very technical and I needed a creative outlet,” she said. She started blogging about the crafts she would create from her finds at thrift stores.

When she was fired five years ago, Ramberg turned her hobby into a career. She has been featured on the HGTV television network and in magazines like GoodHousing and CountryLiving.

Sarah Ramberg headshot.jpg
Sarah Ramberg of Belmont, North Carolina, just west of Charlotte, lives on thrift, or as she calls it “junkin.” Say Curgan Photography Courtesy of Sarah Ramberg

Why thrift store?

It’s an inexpensive way to get rid of the shopping itch, Ramberg said. And, “you’re dollar is going to go away in a thrift store.”

For example, she and her husband bought a vintage mid-century Broyhill cabinet in Hickory for $200 that would normally sell for around $1,500 new.

Savings is also good for the eco-conscious. “For me, it’s a much smaller footprint for decorating my home. I feel better than buying brand new.

The Rambergs’ home is roughly 80% furnished from finds found in thrift stores.

“We really love the thrill of the hunt,” Ramber said. Each piece is a conversation starter and has its own story of how it was found, why it was chosen, or how Ramberg recycled it.

Growing up, Ramberg said shopping at thrift stores was frowned upon. Ramberg said she didn’t grow up wealthy but her mother disapproved of buying second-hand. “But now I love it,” she said. “Remove all stigma from your mind and try it.”

Second hand sofa at Habitat ReStore on Wilkinson Blvd..jpg
Sarah Ramberg of Belmont, North Carolina, who makes a living by saving and blogging about her upcycled finds, found this sofa at Habitat ReStore on Wilkinson Boulevard for $150. “I swear it was new,” she said. Sarah Ramberg

The Charlotte area has “great” thrift stores

Ramberg traveled throughout the Southeast Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia in search of housewares and furniture.

She plans her shopping to include stops at a few stores each week in the Charlotte area. Some of her favorite places are Assistance League of Charlotte Thrift Shop, any Habitat Restores, Goodwill in Steele Creek, The GW Boutique on South Boulevard, and Remix Market in Harrisburg.

“Charlotte has great thrift stores with a great variety,” she said. And, stores like Habitat Restore in Cornelius showcase the wares so well that “it doesn’t even look like a thrift store.”

Sarah Ramberg's second-hand salon.jpg
Sarah Ramberg of Belmont, who “saves money for a living,” has furnished her living room with second-hand furniture and decor. The couch was purchased from Habitat ReStore on Wilkinson Boulevard. Sarah Ramberg

Ramberg’s tips for shopping at a thrift store

1. Save frequently. Stores have no control over inventory.

2. Store location is not indicative of the goods you will find in the Thrift Store. “There’s no guarantee that it’s not proportional to geographic location,” Ramberg said.

3. There is no consistency in pricing, “and you have to get used to it”, so be open minded about what you are willing to pay.

4. If you really like something but the price is too high, come back in a week or two and see if the price has dropped.

5. Not sure if you really want that shirt or that clear pumpkin jar? Take it with you as you keep walking through the store so someone else doesn’t grab it.

6. Check blogs and news sites for the best thrift stores and other information. For example, last month Charlotte Observer’s 2022 Readers’ Choice contest for best thrift store, and of course, Ramberg’s own blog Sadie Seasonal Items. Or just do a Google search.

7. Avoid thrift stores on Saturdays. “That’s when everyone goes, so it’s busy.” Also, many stores are closed on Mondays, so check the hours before you hit the road.

8. Don’t be discouraged. It’s really a stroke of luck. “You never know what you’re going to find.”

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Catherine Muccigrosso is a retail journalist for The Charlotte Observer. An award-winning journalist, she has worked for several newspapers and McClatchy for over a decade.

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