Chicago’s Best Thrift Shops and Vintage Stores
Some of the best shopping in Chicago happens in thrift and vintage shops scattered all over the city. For thrift shoppers who want a full day of searching for treasure, Wolff’s Flea Market is guaranteed to turn up some great finds. Architectural scavengers will lose hours at Urban Remains and Salvage One whereas lovers of vintage Japanese toys and go-go boots should set their GPS coordinates for Hollywood Mirror. Happy thrifting!
6920 Mannheim Road
A bargain-hunter’s paradise, Wolff’s rewards vigilant (and diligent) shoppers with deals on art, antiques, clothing, collectibles, and odds and ends of every description. For the best finds, get there as early as possible and head for the vendors farthest from the entrance. Parking is free, but bring cash for the $2 admission (and, of course, for your purchases).
1840 W Hubbard St, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
You know that saying “They don’t build them like they used to”? Well, anyone who’s ever bought a new home knows exactly what that means. Fortunately, Salvage One’s mission is to preserve, conserve, and recycle glorious architectural remnants from old homes and buildings before they get hauled to the wrecking yard. With 60,000 square feet of space in the Near West Side neighborhood, Salvage One is packed with items like stained glass, claw-foot tubs, and big wooden doors; small, intricate accessories like doorknobs and drawer pulls; and vintage furniture and lighting. The store makes furniture, rents pieces as props for films and theater, and hosts private and corporate events. It’s an eclectic mix of services—but that’s Salvage One for you.
1513 W Foster Ave, Chicago, IL 60640, USA
Adam and Skye Rust admit that they have a thing for taxidermy. And bones. And teeth. Adam has even made an animated sculpture where taxidermied mice circle and dance à la “Three Blind Mice.” They travel the globe to find the strangest and most visually impactful specimens to fill the motionless zoo and touch-friendly museum that is Woolly Mammoth Antiques & Oddities. Brussel Sprouts, the real two-headed calf (from Brussels); a ceremonial Odd Fellows skeleton; vintage medical tools; and old apothecary bottles all share space in this retail wonderarium. Not everything in Woolly Mammoth is a curiosity, but if it’s the unusual you’re seeking to buy, you’re bound to find it here.
1850 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
The sign says “New Antique Store,” which might seem like a misnomer but is in fact a very accurate description of what Urban Remains offers. They sell reclaimed architectural artifacts from old buildings, mostly in the Chicago area and mostly from the 20th century. The Urban Remains warehouse is a giant treasure trove where you’ll find door hardware, industrial furniture, vintage signs, ornamental iron gates and mechanical bits and bobs. If it’s beautiful or functional, Urban Remains probably has it but you might have to dig to find it. Their prices aren’t cheap but sometimes you find just what you weren’t looking for and you simply must have it.
5234 North Clark Street
Up in the Andersonville neighborhood, home of many an antique store, Brownstone Antiques holds a primo spot on Clark Street just down the street from the Swedish diner, Svea. It’s more of a junk store than an antique store with a crowded jumble of antique furniture, piles of vintage jewelry, stacks of paintings and odds and ends on every surface. It’s a little dusty and a lot interesting.
3748 North Elston Avenue
There are consignment shops where everyone knows the value of a gently used designer garment, and then there are thrift stores where you can uncover a Coach bag hanging next to Walmart’s finest. Unique is that kind of thrift store. The good news is that Unique is reasonably priced—not as inexpensive as the Salvation Army, but much more affordable than most consignment shops. It’s clean and organized, and you can find name-brand clothing at great prices. Everyone needs a good thrift shop in their shopping rotation, and Unique is an excellent option.
1528 N Milwaukee Ave # 1, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
It’s always been about affordable vintage goods at this Wicker Park boutique, which sells contemporary dresses and tops from Amuse, men’s hats from Brixton, denim from skinny-jean pros Just USA, rompers from Los Angeles–based En Crème, and handcrafted leather boots from Red Wing. The popular shop’s homewares and apothecary section is arguably the best place to pick up gifts your friends will love, from grooming and shaving goods to candles, perfumes, and barware like flasks and cocktail shakers.
3020 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60657, USA
Like most good thrift stores, the Brown Elephant is hit or miss. Sometimes you can find great books, T-shirts, and super-cheap vinyl—other times, nothing appeals, and you just wander around until your feet hurt. This shop is well organized, and most of the home goods are reasonably priced. All of the proceeds go to benefit the Howard Brown Health Center, a great LGBT charity; if you’re waffling on spending a couple extra bucks, just go for it and know that your money is going to help someone who needs it. (The Brown Elephant has three outlets: this one in Lakeview, one in Andersonville, and one in Oak Park.)
1472 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
This charming little store on Milwaukee is stuffed with vintage goods in primo condition. Beautiful chunks of costume jewelry and frilly fascinators share space with lush leather handbags and sparkling glassware. Nothing in the store is cheaply made—or priced—but all of the items are carefully selected for maximum appeal and quality. Shoppers who come in to browse will likely find treasures they simply can’t live without, because Store B Vintage has some of the prettiest retro pieces in the city.