Think of the term "thrift store," and your mind likely immediately goes to nonprofits such as Goodwill and Salvation Army.

But thrift stores are gaining steam in the Garden State as good for-profit business as well — perhaps even more so in the face of a public health emergency that's caused a financial hit for countless residents.

"There's definitely a need among people to buy things at a lower cost," said Donna Kaufman, owner of Simply Thrifty, located in Washington, Warren County. "Our customer base and our sales have definitely increased over the years, and especially during the pandemic."

But quality clothing and goods at a lower price aren't the only draw, Kaufman said. Many locals are excited about the idea of "recycling" items instead of letting them hit the landfill. She landed in this line of work with her husband who realized in his junk-removal business that people get rid of so many things that have plenty of shelf life left.

"We get some things that are brand new, still with tags on them," Kaufman said.

About a month and a half before COVID-19 took hold of New Jersey, Elizabeth Bassi opened her second thrift shop in Monmouth County. She needed more space at her Freehold location, and now she has more room with a new location on Route 9 in Howell.

An obvious draw is the discounted prices, Bassi said, but she also credits teens and kids for the recent success of thrift stores.

"It's trendy; they all like the vintage look," Bassi said. "They come, they're bringing their parents with them. Their parents are starting to accept it more."

One struggle for the shops is convincing a segment of the population that they're not selling raggedy clothes or dirty items.

"People are impressed," Bassi said. "I'm very picky with what I put in the store."

According to thredUP, the secondhand market is expected to be a $64 billion business by 2024, compared to $28 billion in 2019.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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