by Jordan Iverstine, Editorial Assistant
In my “totally” unbiased opinion, Zachary has become one of the best places to live in Louisiana. I have long held the belief that Zachary resides in the sweet spot of being far enough removed from Baton Rouge to not be caught up in its hustle, while also being close enough to benefit from what the big city can offer. Now more than ever, Zachary is becoming its own independent entity, as big-name brands have started navigating up north to us, removing the need for trips to the Capitol City for options. While we still don’t have a Chick-fil-A (we’re all crossing our fingers), Zachary holds its own when it comes to glorified dumpster diving, otherwise known as Thrifting.
Thrifting has been on the rise since data about the fashion industry’s immense carbon footprint became more readily available. Some reports say the fashion industry alone produces around 10% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the shipping and aviation industries combined. Also, more recently, unethical practices of “fast-fashion” have come under fire, leading most consumers to scrutinize quick-cheap brands such as Fashion Nova and Shein. While some are willing to overlook these problems for the sake of an unbelievably affordable new wardrobe, many have committed to thrifting their clothes in order to reduce the demand for freshly minted articles. Being an avid thrifter myself, and a Z native, here’s my take on where to treasure hunt in town for a new ‘fit you can feel good about.
Who needs Target when you’ve got last year’s overstock? Dirt Cheap is a “retailer in the secondary market,” which means that they are a company that “rescues” its inventory from liquidations, customer returns, overstocks, out-of-season goods, bankruptcies, and closeouts from manufacturers. They are essentially obtaining products that were not able to sell and were headed to landfills. As stated on Dirt Cheap’s website, their presence keeps “millions of items from landfills each year,” which does have an amazing impact on the environment.
While Dirt Cheap does have outrageous bargains on everything from clothes to paddleboards to kitchenware, I’ve always found Dirt Cheap to be… well…. dirty? As I’m sure most of you know, stepping foot into Dirt Cheap is not going to be a luxurious boutique experience. The floors are usually cluttered with piles of inventory that have spilled off of even more cluttered tables. The shelves in the back are stuffed with unmarked cardboard boxes filled with who-knows-what, and don’t even get me started on the “bra-bin.” All that being said, once you get into it, I’ve found that Dirt Cheap can also be a sort of treasure hunt. Sure, Dirt Cheap is definitely not somewhere to buy your wedding dress (though they do have options on those as well), but if you accept that the outlet definitely has too much stuff everywhere, it’s redeemed in the absolutely outrageous prices. Commit to digging through boxes and excavating through piles of t-shirts, and you could walk away with a bundle of items for pennies on the dollar of the original price.
Bealls is the most recently added spot to Zachary’s secondhand options. Also an outlet store, Bealls Outlet is only one of the many different stores that Bealls Inc. runs. The original Bealls started in Florida as a regular retail store in 1915, and the company launched Bealls Outlet in 1987 as a response to the outlet-retailing fad in the Carolinas. Now a chain spreading across the south, Bealls also backs many charities that give back to foster children, rescued animals, and the elderly. If you are looking for a store that definitely does its part to be both sustainable and charitable, Bealls is a great place to start.
In the limited time since the Zachary location has opened, I’ve gone to Bealls three or four times for different reasons and have found that it is like Dirt Cheap’s older, more put-together sister. Everything is organized in clean rows of hangers, sizes are clearly displayed, and, remarkably, no articles of underwear strewn about the isles. As many long time residents will remember, the ability to quickly buy something nice was lost when Stage closed down after 2020. Taking up residence in the same location, I believe that Bealls now serves the niche of being a well-organized space that can help you to quickly find a last-minute outfit.
Goodwill is the only option here in Zachary that is a true chain “thrift store,” as its inventory is donated by individuals from the community. A few years ago, Goodwill was under scrutiny due to Goodwill’s CEO, Steve Preston, earning a hefty salary each year off of products that were supplied for free. In addition, the company was called out for underpaying its disabled employees, shipping unsold items overseas, and selling old, used items for more expensive prices than new items. Since this backlash, Goodwill has come out with statements refuting the claims, pointing to their commitment to starting and sustaining many “programs and services that help people overcome barriers to employment.” The Goodwill website states that eighty-two cents of every dollar earned goes to funding these programs and readily provides documents of their financial records in order to clear their name.
In my own opinion, Goodwill is a sort of middle ground between Dirt Cheap and Bealls, as it definitely has a grungier atmosphere that screams “used,” yet still retains a sense of organization and polish. I enjoy shopping at Goodwill in Zachary as I think many of the items are clean and undamaged, and it is rare that I find a dirty or stained article. I also really appreciate the options of kitchenware and books that, at least to me, seem remarkably cheaper than retailers. I find many newer, expensive brands in Goodwill that would otherwise be double the price if bought new, giving that same “treasure hunt” feel that is one of the beauties of thrifting. In all, I think as long as you do your research on different stores in your area, as Goodwill claims that it “does not have an owner and is run by a volunteer board of directors” for each branch, you can make sure your dollar is being used ethically while getting a cute find in return.