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Which SF Goodwill is for You? Start Your Day off Thrifting and Go Explore

Summer is here. The weirdest summer break in the history of summer breaks, for so many reasons. As shops begin to reopen, we might consider leaving our homes--getting back to thrift shops, taking a day trip, or just enjoying a staycation for some much needed self care.

People often ask me which SF Goodwill to visit. Here's your guide to including Goodwill in your San Francisco day trip itinerary.

COVID Precautions

An important note, it looks like SF will be taking special shopping precautions indefinitely due to the COVID pandemic. (Note that San Francisco requires everyone 13 and up to wear a face mask at almost all times once you leave your house. Please refer to the SFGov site for the complete list of restrictions.) These guidelines include Goodwill shops, and restrictions include:

  • Required face masks

  • Physical Distancing

  • No personal shopping bags

  • Closed fitting rooms

  • Wiped down baskets

  • Limited number of shoppers

  • No returns

What's your thrifting style?

If you're a thrifter, you undoubtedly have personal thrift shop preferences. You might prefer sifting through every single item at a smaller shop with a more curated selection. Or you might enjoy scanning rack after rack at a huge store. You might go with thrift list in hand, or just see what catches your eye. You might prefer contemporary over vintage, a large menswear or homewares selection, a great bargain, or higher ticket designer pieces. Or, you might need a place easily accessible by public transportation.

Whatever it is you're looking for, the variety of SF Goodwill shops has your back. I'll help you navigate the shops that I frequent to help you maximize your thrifting experience. No matter where you end up thrifting, one thing is universal--it's always a treasure hunt.

I should also probably mention that this isn't a sponsored blog post or anything. I'm just an avid SF Goodwill shopper.

Fillmore Street, 1669 Fillmore Street

(Re-opens June 16)

Location: 1669 Fillmore Street. This Goodwill is located in the Fillmore district, which includes a trendy shopping corridor, jazz venues, and Japantown.

Transportation: If you drive, there is meter and one hour street parking available (PAY THE METER, A TICKET IS $70, by coin or card). Pre-COVID, you would expect to either circle for awhile or park several blocks away during busy lunch hours or on weekends. Additionally, there are Japantown parking garages nearby. In addition, several bus lines intersect here.

Size: Big (for a City Goodwill, but not comparatively to a suburban Goodwill)

Carts/Baskets: It's a larger store so they've got both, with a limited number of carts (not sure they'll still have carts during COVID).

Specialty: Because the space is larger, there's a good amount of selection, including a handful of furniture and housewares. I tend to find a lot of contemporary brands here. There's usually a particularly large section of dresses, and racks dedicated to athleisure and cashmere. A selection of leather pants and skirts tend to end up here too, mixed into the racks. There's also a case with brand name purses (not authenticated), which are usually priced between $20 and $30, but there is no top limit to pricing generally. The second room has a decent sized men's and kids section with a small toy corner.

Favorite pieces found here: Hands down, my $13 Gucci boots. Some luxury items will fall through the cracks and not get repriced here, so you can really find some gems. I also love my merlot vintage high waisted leather pants. Plus, the most perfect fitting 90's black denim and my silk cropped top by EachxOther.

Insider's Take: It's rare to find larger Goodwills in the city as real estate is just too expensive, so it's nice to go to a relatively bigger place and have a lot of selection. You can find some really nice contemporary brands if you're patient enough to sift through. There is a smattering of vintage pieces, and as it doesn't seem like people come to this Goodwill for those particularly, you might get lucky with those pieces as well.

Explore: Grab ramen at Marafuku, mochi donuts from Mochill, green tea ice cream from Uji Time Dessert, or any of the other specialty confection or snack shops in Japan Center. You will quickly learn that delicious food in SF is worth waiting in line for! Or grab sushi, sandwich, or mochi to go in a box from Nijiya Market (before they sell out for the day). Visit Daiso, (the Japanese version of the Dollar Store) where most items are $1.50, or browse the Japanese book store Kinokuniya.

When you're done exploring Japantown, head down Fillmore St. to Boba Guys--an SF-based Asian owned chain--where you can customize your boba drink. My favorite is the Horchata with almond jelly. Or head north on Fillmore for more shops and restaurants. It's about five blocks to Eileen Fisher and Rothy's, if you're a fan. Catch an intimate night of jazz at Yoshi's, or seafood dinner at Woodhouse Fish Co where the locals dine.

If you keep heading north (take a very long walk over some serious hills past the Pacific Heights mansions, or drive or bus it), you'll eventually hit the Marina District for even more shops and restaurants on Chestnut Street. Grab a custom salad or sandwich at Blue Barn or check out the ultra fancy Starbucks Reserve for a unique coffee fix. Go north to the bay's edge with views of Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. Or rent a bike at Sports Basement to make it easier to travel along the water toward the Warming Hut for a quick snack, visiting one of the beaches on the way. Grab close-up bridge views and obligatory selfie from the pier where people fish.

Haight St, 1700 Haight St.

Location: Haight St has a colorful history as the birthplace of the 60's hippie movement and the meeting ground for the 1967 Summer of Love. It's still an eclectic neighborhood but has had particular trouble with drugs and homelessness throughout the decades, and continues to. Today, it's home to lots of trendy eateries and is a haven for secondhand shoppers. Goodwill on Haight is the only charity shop though, and rivals any of the high priced curated secondhand stores there (in my humble opinion).

Transportation: There's meter parking and some free residential parking. Like Fillmore though, avoid the area for parking during busy times and weekends.

Size: Big.

Carts/Baskets: They've got both, with a limited number of carts.

Specialty: This shop has a dedicated section for vintage (both mens' and women's), tie dye, and sequins. The pieces in these sections are priced up from a few dollars more than regular pricing to a lot more. You can still find vintage pieces interspersed with the general inventory too, most of which is not priced up.

Favorite pieces found here: Wool & silk vintage Norman Norell dress, military inspired trench, velour dress, and denim coveralls.

Overall: This is my favorite Goodwill for vintage. Having it all in one place is so helpful, and it's really worth spending a few extra dollars for a more curated vintage collection.

Explore: Walk east down Haight for your choice of all kinds of food and snack, people watching, ogling over some Victorian houses, or browse the windows or pop into some of the secondhand shops.

Or walk west and hit Golden Gate Park. It's very walkable if you're on foot, and enjoy any of the trails, Children's Playground, the De Young Museum (the cafe, shops, viewing tower, and sculpture garden at the de Young are free to the public), Academy of Sciences, Botanical Gardens, Bison Paddock, Japanese Tea Garden, Stow Lake peddle boats, or Conservatory of Flowers. Apparently there will at some point be a ferris wheel! If you plan to do a lot of exploring, there are places to rent bikes and surreys inside the park.

If you're really ambitious, walk the entire 3 mile length of the park and hit Ocean Beach, Cliff House, and Sutro Baths. The sunset on a rare clear day is beautiful. If your feet haven't had enough, you can hit the coastal Land's End Trail and head back east toward the Legion of Honor and the Richmond District. Alternatively, head back toward the Sunset district and explore its eateries.

West Portal, 61 West Portal Avenue

Location: West Portal is one of two Goodwill Boutique shops in the City and is located on the south side. It feels more like a consignment shop to me, as the pricing tends to vary quite wildly. The pieces are more procured and high end brands, as well as unique vintage pieces can be found here. If you're looking for a more selective shop and don't mind paying for it, this is the place for you.

Transportation: The West Portal shop is located on a commercial strip located at the MUNI trains' main hub. So this shop is easily accessible by MUNI or by car. Street meter parking is limited, and there is also some limited residential parking.

Size: Small

Carts/Baskets: None

Specialty: There is an excellent selection of nicer clothing, bags, shoes, boots, and costume jewelry. In fact, there are entire boards against the back wall hallway of jewelry. This boutique doesn't carry home goods, so don't expect to find that here.

Favorite pieces found here: Probably my black Armani suit. The pieces were separated and I found them on two different racks. I ended up spending $15 for the trousers and $25 for the blazer. I also love this pair of Madewell palazzo pants that I hemmed into culottes, and my denim ruffle back shacket.

Overall: If I'm looking for a unique high end or vintage piece for a special occasion, I might search here. It's not your typical thrift shop though, so you'll need to either change your mindset on thrift shop pricing or avoid shopping here altogether to avoid disappointment.

Explore: Like a lot of San Francisco neighborhoods, this one has been plagued by high rents and less brick and mortar shopping, so there are a lot of empty storefronts. But there are eateries and a few mom and pop shops along West Portal that are worth the stroll, including Noe Valley Bakery where I never miss my chance to grab a latte and scone.

While you're on the south side of the City, you have easy access to the trail along Ocean Beach and the San Francisco Zoo (bring a jacket and layers). Or, travel east for sunnier skies toward the Castro. Catch a sing-along at the historic Castro Theater, or grab some take out and a blanket and people watch while soaking up some vitamin D at sunny Mission Dolores Park.

Inner Richmond, 820 Clement Street

Location: Clement Street is one of two commercial corridors in the Richmond District, which lies on the north side of Golden Gate Park.

Transportation: There is mostly meter parking, and depending on the time of day, could get very crowded. There are also several nearby bus lines.

Size: Small

Carts/Baskets: None

Specialty: This is your basic small neighborhood Goodwill, so I wouldn't say they have any special sections per se.

Best thing I ever found here: I'm going with my blush colored Rebecca Taylor dress, that was in brand new condition. Oh yeah and there was the case of my Chanel belt. I find a lot of everyday staples here at good prices.

Overall: I love popping into this neighborhood Goodwill. It's less picked over, and there isn't as much upcharging. What you see if what you get, and therefore, you can find some great hidden gems.

Explore: There are tons of eateries up and down and right off Clement including Chinese dim sum and bakeries, Burmese, American, Japanese, acai bowls, and boba. I love Burma Superstar for a tea leaf salad or pumpkin pork stew with coconut rice, Palmetto Superfoods for a custom acai bowl, or Ariscault for ham and cheese or almond croissants.

For sewists, visit Fabrix for inexpensive and unique deadstock fabric. Do pop into Green Apple Bookstore as well, for your long forgotten local bookstore experience. They sell overstock books as well as current and used, and SF and logo tees which make great souvenirs.

If you want to experience a bustling Chinese market, pop into May Wah. Nearby, Kamei Restaurant Supply carries lots of Chinese and Japanese porcelain bowls, plates, cups, and other fun knickknacks worth perusing.

For some history and nature, enter the Presidio at 14th Ave and Lake Street and take a woodsy trail or head toward Baker Beach. For kids, visit nearby Mountain Lake Park, or head south to Golden Gate Park.

General Tips for Goodwill SF Thrifting

Keep your head up. Let's be real. San Francisco is an urban city struggling with homelessness, mental illness and issues surrounding gentrification and the tech boom. Many Goodwill shops are targeted by shoplifters, and commotion with the team members or security guards is a daily occurrence. Just use your street smarts.

Bring your own bags. Single use bags in San Francisco are banned. You can bring your own or get reusable bags at most stores for a fee. At SF Goodwill, it'll cost you a dollar per bag.

*UPDATE: Per COVID rules, you won't be able to bring your own bag. You will have to purchase one of theirs--$0.10 for a paper bag or $1.00 for reusable fabric bag. This rule applies throughout the city during COVID

The best time to shop is when the doors open at 9am on weekdays. The stores get pretty heavy traffic throughout the day and depending on how crowded it is, staff will bring out varying amounts of clothing for restocking. If you like something and think you might just come back for it, you're probably in for a huge disappointment. So start your day thrifting and then go explore the rest of the city!

Fitting rooms: Most stores have 2 fitting rooms, with a five item limit. Expect to stand in line during busy times. And if you have more than five items, there's honestly no surefire way to hold onto the surplus of items unless you have a shopping buddy.

*UPDATE: Per COVID rules, fitting rooms will be closed until further notice.

Pricing: All SF Goodwill base pricing is consistent, but they will often pull designer and vintage pieces and upcharge you for them. For example, base prices start from $4 to $13 depending on the item, but generally it seems like Goodwill reserves the right to charge you whatever they want for more curated pieces. I've seen a $400 pair of boots and a $1,000 LV bag for sale at SF Goodwill.

Organization: The Goodwill shops in SF are more curated than other Goodwills I've seen. Pieces are organized in sections by type, then separated by size and color. It makes it a lot easier for those who like to skim the racks. But prices are generally higher than other cities because of this. Personally, I check all the size sections because vintage sizing is so much different from contemporary sizing.

Final Thoughts

Give SF Goodwill a visit the next time you're in town. And don't forget about the other smaller neighborhood Goodwill shops.

No doubt thrifting in the time of COVID will be a different experience, as well as will visiting eateries, which will have limited hours and will be takeout only for awhile.

A few last notes: Please don't mistake this post thinking you'll go to SF Goodwill and find a Chanel belt. Thrifting is hit or miss, and it takes a while to build a thrifted wardrobe. Also disclaimer--the prices I listed above are my best guesses based on memory. I've had some of these pieces for awhile, so I may be off by a few dollars here or there.

So...will you get out there and thrift?

Need another reason to shop SF Goodwill?

Read about SF Goodwill's commitment to being allies to the LGTBQ community.

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