It’s no secret that Houstonians love to thrift, whether it’s searching through endless piles of clothes to find the perfect vintage Rockets T-shirt or stumbling across pieces from that ‘90s that have conveniently come back in style. Because of the coronavirus, shoppers may be more cautious when it comes to secondhand items, but some of the city’s beloved thrift shops are reopening and taking measures to keep Houston safe while doing so. For The Cottage Shop, a staple for Montrose thrift shopping since 1971, the process of reopening came with some challenges, a lot of learning, and a renewed sense of community.
“A lot of our customers have been shopping with us for decades,” manager Cheri Burleson says. “This is a place to come in, say hello, and pick up a few things. It’s a part of their routine.”
Burleson has spent the last month navigating the shop’s return to business after a nearly two-month closure from March 12 to May 4. Owned by The Women’s Home, a local nonprofit that helps homeless women—including many struggling with abusive relationships—get back on their feet, The Cottage Shop normally serves as a vocational training site for its residents, but that’s had to change in the wake of COVID-19 as a precaution.
“We needed to protect the clients, the staff and the community,” says Burleson. “That was really the most important thing that we had on our mind.”
As such, only a small staff is currently working at the shop—no volunteers or residents—and they took numerous safety measures before reopening: All the carpets and vents were cleaned, all fixtures were wiped down, signs outlining the CDC’s recommendations were hung around the store, and social distancing markers were placed on the floor. Plexiglass now separates the registers from customers, and only half of the fitting rooms are open. The store is cleaned daily, and there’s even a door greeter to enforce the occupancy rule—Gov. Abbott’s Phase 3 rules now allow for 75 percent of customers in at one time as of June 12.
In May, Burleson and her team also restocked the store entirely with clothes that had been in storage since September, she says. “As a staff, we feel more comfortable because we know that the merchandise has been there for a long time.” But they’re now accepting donations on Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are guidelines though: clothing must be laundered or dry cleaned. All home goods must be washed.
Thought it's unknown when The Cottage Shop will be able to welcome back all volunteers and residents and get back to 100 percent, for now, Burleson's main goal is to make sure her team feels as safe as possible while offering some semblance of normalcy for the community, and it appears to be working. “A lot of people are just happy to wait to be able to come in,” she says. "And we’re grateful for that.”
The Cottage Shop, 811 Westheimer Rd. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mon-Sat.
Three More to Shop Now
Located in the heart of Montrose, Pavement was one of the first thrift shops to open up its doors to customers on May 1. Prior to fully opening, Pavement was innovating the thrifting experience for customers by selling clothes virtually through their Instagram and through a curbside donation service. Here you can find anything from this season’s trendiest outfits to great vintage and costume pieces. Pavement asks that all customers wear a mask and respect social distancing guidelines. 1657 Westheimer Rd. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon–Sun.
The Dunlavy favorite is now open with a greeter that takes temperatures at the door and controls the crowd—you must wear a mask to enter—and a new donation take-in process (read the guidelines here). Operated by St. John’s The Episcopal Church since 1962, the Guild Shop sells clothes, furniture, housewares, jewelry, and more, with profits benefiting numerous charities dedicated to improving the lives of Houston’s elderly. 2009 Dunlavy St. 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mon–Fri, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat.
This Heights staple, which is coming up on its 19th year in business, is a one stop shop for vintage clothing, costumes, and party rental supplies. Retropolis also hosts many different local vendors that also sell through Instagram or Etsy. The store currently has sanitization stations and complimentary masks for customers that don’t have their own. 373 W 19th St. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wed–Sun.