Though there are plenty of folks who try to make the case that America is a Christian Nation and always has been, this writer would argue that the real religion of America is More. More stuff. More clothes. More knick-knacks and gee-gaws and plastic toys. More throw pillows embroidered with pithy sayings. More funny cat pictures and T-shirts that say "I'm With Stupid." More, more, more, forever and ever, Amen.
The problem with practicing at the Religion of More (patron: St. Walton of Bentonville) is that, sooner or later, you run out of room to put all the new stuff you bought to replace the old stuff that wasn't quite cutting the mustard anymore. That's where Savers, this year's Best of Arkansas winner for Best Thrift Store, comes in. Not only does Savers allow you a convenient place to get rid of all your unused Christmas cocoa mug sets, padded-shoulder frocks from the 1980s, yellow platform heels and mooing cow cookie jars without resorting to dumping them on some dead-end road down by the airport (while giving you coupons for donations that can cut way into your bill if you decide to drop n' shop), those things are soon up for grabs to anyone who ever lusted for such goodies, often at a fraction of the cost you paid for them in the first place. Bonus: Savers — whose corporate motto is "Good deeds, great deals" — forms a "non-profit alliance" with a local charity, with the charity collecting donated items, which are then sold to Savers. In Central Arkansas, Savers is partnered with the Arc of Arkansas and uses the money it makes selling donated items to help provide housing assistance, advocacy and other assistance to people with disabilities.
Both Central Arkansas Savers stores (one on JFK Boulevard in North Little Rock, the other on Shackleford Road in Little Rock) are big ol' places, more like a thrift department store than a plain ol' thrift store, with thousands of items that can change daily. This writer must admit that I'm a devotee. Please don't think less of me, Dear Consumer, but the shoes I'm wearing as I write this came from there: a pair of stylish, name-brand, all-leather loafers with barely a nick or scuff anywhere on them when I bought them for under $15 clams. (And yes, I sprayed them down with no-see-um destroyer before I wore 'em — a small price to pay for a much smaller price.)
Strolling the aisles of the NLR Savers on a recent Friday, the whole of the fickleness of the American consumer was on display: A purple suitcoat, ready for any would-be Joker. Potty chairs and baseball gloves. Old timey tennis rackets, and enough luggage to send the Kardashians on vacation. A boy rode a wobbly bike down the center aisle until his mother yelled at him to get off. In the housewares section, there was an electric apple peeler, a clock that made different bird sounds on the hour, an ornate, jumbo-sized jar of pickled olives, and a beer stein that said: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit." Nearby, the Brat Pack stared out moodily from a vintage poster for "The Breakfast Club." On the shelves, enough creepy clown figurines to emotionally scar a generation of grandkids smiled out, black eyed and murderous. There was a "Billy Bass." There was a rather unsettling painting that looked like the face of Christ from far away, but looked like a very pregnant Mary riding a donkey when seen up close. There was a translation of "Beowulf," VHS movies by the cartload, and enough Cliff's Notes to pass a hundred Lit 101 classes. And all so cheap! Your correspondent even picked up a few things, carried them around for awhile, then put them back after realizing I had absolutely no use in the world for ... whatever it was that affixed itself to my hand.
Faron Kirkpatrick was wandering the aisles with a friend the day I was there. The son of antiques dealers who caught the collecting bug from them, Kirkpatrick said he comes to Savers "about every day." When we spoke, he was carrying around a small book on Champagne. "I'm collecting cookbooks right now. I know nothing about Champagne, so for $1.99 I can pick up a book and learn about Champagne ... There's everything in here. That's why I come every day. It changes every day. There's always new stuff everywhere."
A collector of Revere Ware cookware, Kirkpatrick said that he can get items for a few bucks at Savers that would cost him much more in an antique store.
"I can come in here and get cheap, authentic 1930s and '40s Revere Wear for a buck-ninety-nine," he said. "And I donate a lot. I have a lot of stuff, so I'm constantly giving back. They give coupons when you give stuff, so it's cheap."
That's the way, my friend. Out with the bad stuff, in with the good stuff, repeat. Now, where's the shoe aisle?