Thrifting in San Jose and Livermore, CA

It’s been a minute since my last Bay Area thrifting trip — about a year, to be exact. Since I have fantastic thrift stores near me, I haven’t felt particularly inclined to make the drive up to the South Bay. Still, it’s always a fun time thrifting in the Bay Area since there are simply more secondhand shops around. Just last week, I met up with a former work buddy in San Jose, so I took advantage of my time there to browse a few thrift shops in the Bay Area. 

Browsing secondhand finds at West Wind Capitol Flea Market

Dad and I left the house around 6, when the sky was pitch black and the freeways were still eerily empty. Before making our way to the flea market, we stopped by the Duc Huong in my childhood neighborhood to pick up some banh mi sandwiches. I also stocked up on a bunch of Vietnamese snacks for the week — a roll of cha lua, banh gio, a few steamed buns, and a box of sweet banh da lon strips. 

Then, Dad and I made our way to the West Wind Capitol Flea Market in south San Jose. A mere $2.50 fare gives you access to a world of riches — think $1 clothes formerly from Goodwill, cheap produce, houseplants, video games, and knockoff toys. You just need to have a thick jacket to stay warm and the patience to work your way around shopping-savvy Vietnamese aunties all geared up with their push carts and sun-shielding visors. 

I didn’t buy much, but my flea market trip wasn’t a total bust. I picked up persimmons and a $0.50 child’s red dress for my dog’s Halloween costume. This year, I noticed a lot more $1-$3 Goodwill clothes stands and tents, so I recommend this flea market for anyone who loves secondhand shopping for clothes!

Thrifting in the San Jose Almaden neighborhood

After the flea market, we meandered around the Almaden neighborhood for a while, stopping by Saver’s and Goodwill. I was especially stoked to go to Saver’s since their book selection is huge for a secondhand shop. I love thrifting for books there because they always have a fantastic buy 4 get the 5th free deal! I picked up a few classics and cozies, including Charlaine Harris’ Dead Until Dark, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, and a Sofie Kelly cozy. 

At Goodwill, I picked up a cute pleated lampshade for $2 — more on that later, but my friend recently showed me a picture of her lamp and I’ve been eyeing a similar design ever since… I often see lamps for $20, but I was glad to only grab the shade for $2! (I also love those fringed, silk Victorian lampshades, but they don’t fit in with my room style.) 

Thrifting in the San Jose Alameda neighborhood

The best part of my trip, of course, was getting to see my dear friend, an old work buddy of mine from when I worked at a stationery e-commerce company in the Bay Area. We met up for coffee at Crema (I got my first cafe au lait in literal years) and wandered around the shops along the Alameda. The Alameda is much different than the San Jose that I’m most familiar with. It’s ritzier, quainter, maybe a bit more cosmopolitan on the surface. We came across a fancy vintage shop called New/Found Market, which, while out of budget for us, flaunted a beautifully curated collection of clothes and home goods. 

The main purpose of our meetup, of course, was to browse Recycle Bookstore. This is truly one of the spots I miss most in San Jose. We scouted the whole store for used books, but my friend was especially eager to browse art and religious studies books while I hunted down cozies and Edgar Allan Poe collections. (Sorry, I’ve been The Fall on the House of Usher-pilled.) Besides browsing through cozy mysteries, I picked up an Edgar Allan Poe collection (with giant font for my aging eyes) and a book of Buddhist koans. 

Discovering Livermore’s Tri-Valley Haven Thrift Shop

Whenever we head back home from the Bay Area, Dad and I usually make a pit stop in Livermore so that he can charge his electric car. I am quite fond of downtown Livermore’s quiet charm: A short drive away from the vineyards, there are plenty of mom-and-pop shops clustered alongside your suburban fixtures like Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet, and Michael’s. 

We stopped by Livermore Goodwill, which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best Goodwills in the East Bay area. I discovered this store when we first moved down to the Central Valley. The clothes are a bit pricier than your typical Goodwill in northern California, but I recommend stopping by for their home decor, especially if you have cottage or shabby chic taste. They usually have a lovely selection of clocks, plates, and figurines, all for around $2 to $5. I grabbed a collie figurine with a nicked ear for $2. I’m hoping to repaint it sometime soon. 

Dad and I also stopped by the Tri-Valley Haven Thrift Shop for the first time! It’s a small nonprofit shop, but they have good deals and a well-organized layout. I only picked up a book for a quarter, but I’d love to browse their clothes the next time I stop by. 

My entire Bay Area thrifting excursion reaffirmed how much I love browsing my local secondhand shops (less temptation, more familiar faces, and lower price points), but I’d definitely love to do quarterly Bay Area thrift trips in the future just to scout what’s up there. 

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