Housing Works is another one of my favorite charitable thrifting organizations in NYC. The non-profit has a dozen thrift shops--plus an awesome bookstore cafe--located throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, with proceeds going to help homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. Although they differ a lot in size and location, the HW thrift stores are uniformly clean, organized and well-staffed, and their shop windows are always full of gorgeous furniture and artwork.
Because it's located on Thrift Row (E. 23rd between Lexington and 2nd Ave.), Housing Works Gramercy is the HW outpost I visit most, and it's one of the chain's larger Manhattan stores. Prices at this shop--and all of the HW stores--can vary according to the time of year (check for markdowns at the end of each season!) and how long merchandise has been hanging around. As a result, its a good idea to check back every few weeks, since pricing can change pretty dramatically throughout the month. Sometimes I go in and walk right back out after spying plenty of $50+ price tags, and other times its worth digging through the markdowns for some steals, like a red silk Jason Wu top my friend once scored for just $10 (jealous!). The shop also has lots of decor and home goods, as well as some super-cheap books.
HW is known for its selection of designer duds, though the Gramercy outlet isn't exactly teeming with them (for a higher concentration of luxury goods, head to the Soho or West Village locations). The staff is very knowledgable, however, so most designer items are priced at an appropriate premium. In other words, it can be hard to find bargain steals when it comes to the branded stuff. HW also puts some of its especially high-end merchandise on its online auction platform, so you can bid on used Prada sunglasses, Gucci bags and Hermes scarves virtually, if that's your cup of tea.
But for the more deal-minded, HW offers plenty of regular sales and specials, including a 20% discount for students with a valid ID every Tuesday. And if you end up becoming a regular at HW, there are also plenty of special discounts and perks available to organization members (memberships start at $60).
So while it can take some effort and repeat visits to find really good deals, HW is still a great way to shop like a "retail activist" and support a worthy cause. If you want to learn more and get involved with HW, you can also check out their site for donation and volunteer opportunities, as well as a list of all their fundraising and community events!
Housing Works Gramercy
157 E. 23rd Street
New York, NY 10010