When most people think of Palm Beach shopping they immediately think of the fashion-focused street, Worth Avenue. For the last fifty years, the rich and famous have flocked to this famed shopping destination to view and buy the latest international high-end fashion designer's clothes, shoes, and accessory collections from Gucci, Valentino, Chanel, Hermes, Christian Dior and more. Likewise, one will find many upscale specialty shops such as Charlotte Kellogg, Susan E. Riley, Sherry Frankel's Melangerie and Stubbs and Wootton right off the Avenue in the several vias. Also nearby, South and North County Roads have many unique and trendy boutiques. With that said, one of the relatively unknown Palm Beach shopping secrets is its fabulous and plentiful vintage and consignment venues.
Like many shoppers, the thought of buying secondhand clothes was never something I sought to do. I'll never forget the first time I went into a consignment shop in-- you guessed it-- Palm Beach. After having breakfast at the Surf Side Diner, I decided to walk down South County Road and head to Worth Ave. On the way, I saw a beautiful freestanding store with showroom windows above The Church Mouse that were topped with classic Florida awnings. I thought it was an odd name for a shop in Palm Beach, but being the shopaholic I am, I had to go in and check it out. The minute I walked in I knew this place was different.
As you enter this shopping emporium, you immediately see a piano. Having someone playing music while you shopped is definitely a nice touch. Neatly organized and attractive sections of all types of merchandise, the store boasts high-end men and women's clothes, accessories, furniture, home accessories, fine china and crystal, books and original art. I remember thinking that I had once read that Jackie Kennedy Onassis had frequented Encore, one of the first upscale consignment stores in New York. If this kind of store was OK with her, I believed I should shed my shopping prejudice and give The Church Mouse a chance.
There is a distinction between consignment, vintage and thrift stores. A consignment shop is one where people bring lightly-used or in perfect condition merchandise to be sold where the owner gets a percentage of the sales price. Usually, the longer an item is not purchased the asking price is reduced or the cost is negotiable. A vintage store is one where the owner owns the merchandise or it can also be offered on consignment. Things found in these shops tend to be older and throw back to the 1940's to 1980's. Thrift shop articles are a mixed bag and the store must have strict quality control or what is found here is typically junk. All merchandise sold in thrifts results in a tax write off to the original owner.
Palm Beach and Broward County is a consignment, vintage and thrift shop mecca with what I believe to be the highest quality of merchandise anywhere in the America. One of my absolute favorite Palm Beach consignment shops is Cassie & James located in the Via Tesla near Royal Poinciana Way. The owner, Susan Hoffman Yespy, has a discerning eye and only sells unique high-end merchandise. The clothes and accessories in her store are in pristine condition and every time I have shopped there I was able to negotiate the prices of items. Besides her charming shop, Susan herself is a total delight. She is full of happy energy and provides tips on where to shop and what to do in Palm Beach. I never miss going into her store when I am in town. Other well-known consignment shops here are Maxim's of Palm Beach and Fashionista.
Located on Via Tesla is Paradise Lost, a vintage/consignment shop extraordinaire. I first started shopping here when it was owned by Tanya Pierce, a popular personality on the Palm Beach scene. I loved this store the minute I walked in because it had loads of vintage fine and costume jewelry in addition to original art, beautiful porcelains and clothing accessories. I remember her as a beautiful, sophisticated woman, something that translated into what her shop had to offer for sale. Paradise Lost is still carrying on her tradition. Rumor has it that Martha Stewart stops by here from time to time.
Another well-known popular vintage shop in Palm Beach is Groovy Palm Beach Vintage, which specializes in colorful clothing and accessories for men and women from the 1960's through 1980's. Groovy has the largest selection of vintage Pucci and Lilly Pulitzer anywhere, according to Paulette Cooper Noble, also known as The Happy Shopper.
When I think of thrift shops the Salvation Army comes to mind, although The Church Mouse is a mind-blowing thrift shop. In a beautiful free-standing building this eight room store is filled with fabulous merchandise: designer evening gowns, men's and women's luxury clothing, books, children's clothes, home accessories and more mostly from some of the finest homes and closets in Palm Beach. You can spend hours taking in all the wonderful things to buy here. And best of all, the prices are low and the quality of the goods is high. I love The Church Mouse and the cheery church volunteers who run the store. The store is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 4pm, October through June, with a big end of the season sale occurring every June before it closes for the summer. All thrift shops are not created equal. When in Palm Beach, if you like to search for that over-the-top shopping deal, hit The Church Mouse. You might just hit the shopping jackpot!
In this blog post, I have shared my three favorite consignment/vintage/thrift shopping venues but there are so many that Noble, The Happy Shopper, has written about them in her comprehensive book, Bargain Shopping in Palm Beach County. She outlines all of these types of shops, what they offer and where they are located. Of course, I had to buy this shopping reference book! I've read it from cover to cover and it is definitely a great resource for the bargain shopper.
Palm Beach is a unique solo travel destination with its balmy tropical climate, its high-end shopping, its numerous fine dining restaurants, and its beautiful hotels, architecture and gardens. If and when you choose to visit this special place, resist your bias and venture into one of it's best-kept secrets: consignment/vintage/thrift shopping. I bet you won't leave empty handed.