A chic-looking vintage store along West Portal Avenue — showcasing fur capelets and gala-worthy gowns in its windows — offers shoppers an unexpected twist: it’s a Goodwill.
This upscale offshoot of the nonprofit thrift-store operator feels more akin to a boutique than a typical thrift store, with floor-to-ceiling mirrors, stacks of vintage books lining its shelves, and plush, colorful ottomans to sit on.
Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train” plays overhead, and in back, jewelry hangs on a tall, framed board that has black-and-white photos of Audrey Hepburn and Lucille Ball pinned to it.
Though it's been in business for two decades, West Portal's Goodwill boutique received a facelift this year, with renovations beginning in December 2017 and finishing up around March.
Its ever-rotating interior décor comes from a single design team that works on all San Francisco Goodwills, a store employee told Hoodline recently.
At the moment, the displays at 61 West Portal Avenue suggest a mix of Edwardian and steampunk themes, with mannequins wearing ornate masks, wide-brim hats, and feathers — perfect for Burning Man or a Halloween ball you may have coming up.
The labels — and prices — are often more elevated than a typical Goodwill's. On Hoodline's visit, we spotted a vintage Dior trench coat, Burberry sweaters and jeans, and other labels like London Fog, Kate Spade and Moncler. The stacks of vintage books are for display only, but the store sells others near the checkout counter for $4.99 each.
The clothing brands definitely shout luxury, but shoppers should be cautious. Newer pieces from Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, and Calvin Klein can go for many times the price of items from the same labels that are sold at Ross, Marshalls, or other discount for-profit chains.
Some online reviews echo this sentiment. “Very few items [here] are really in fact high-end and not just Mervyn’s or Ross rejects, and those are in most cases priced unjustifiably high, sometimes higher than you can get them new at Nordstrom Rack,” noted one Yelper, Elaine J.
Still, the store has plenty of fans.
“Walking in, it doesn’t occur to you right away that it’s a Goodwill,” Theresa Von Dohlen, a frequent Goodwill shopper and Outer Sunset resident, told Hoodline.
She called this location her “top pick” among others in the city, noting that “the clothing selection is also less eccentric than in other ones.”
While an employee told us this Goodwill has always been an upscale boutique, several other Goodwills across the country have undergone boutique transformations in the past seven years, as part of an effort by the Maryland-based nonprofit to offer higher-end options.
By 2015, roughly 60 Goodwills nationwide had become upscale bargain stores, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Of the eight locations in San Francisco, the West Portal Goodwill is the only one to list itself as a boutique, according to the nonprofit's website.
"We've always offered the best at a lower price," the store employee told Hoodline.
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