You might not be able to afford a house in Marin and Sonoma Counties, but there are certainly other deals to be found in the North Bay. For fans of cool fashion and ephemera, the region has enough thrift stores, junk stores and antique stores to make a whole day trip of looking for that perfect something, be it books, cookware, furniture and even bikes. For this guide, we have both counties covered, so no matter where you're spending your time or how you're spending it, there's a place listed here that's worth making a short trip -- probably shorter than you think.
Salvation Army Lytton Springs
200 Lytton Springs Road, Healdsburg
Originally a hot springs resort built in 1875, Salvation Army Lytton Springs is located on a vineyard-facing hill so far in the middle of nowhere that one might mistake it for a rehab center. And actually, that's exactly what it is – visitors will note the signs at the entrance explicitly prohibiting alcohol on the premises. Set around the main building, though, are a coterie of specialty outlets: a furniture store, an antique store, a country Americana store, an outdoor “digs”-type area and a large clothing store. Hell, there's even a field of cars for sale. Because of its remote location, quality items at Lytton Springs tend to stick around a little longer, and the outdoor bins yield especially promising finds at dirt-cheap prices; for years, I'd buy $15 bikes to fix up and give to friends simply because they were so cheap. Budget yourself at least an hour here, if not two, and make sure your trunk is empty when you arrive – you'll need the space. --G.M.
1290 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa
You know that one thrift store that you hesitate to tell others about, for fear the secret will get out? Fatty's Threads is such an in-the-know spot that there's not even a sign out front – just a sidewalk overflowing with clothes, books, stereo equipment, baseball cards, magazines, tools, chewing gum, appliances, DVDs, posters, bicycles, sporting equipment, cleaning products, art supplies, model cars, records, patio furniture, toys, and whatever other manner of unpredictable inventory comes through the shop. Operating as much a community hub as a junk store, the store's amiable owner/ringleader Dave acts as a sort of neighborhood bartender—doling out advice, helping out those down on their luck, giving opinions when asked and quoting prices way below what you'd expect to pay. A true gem of a shop. --G.M.
Ray's Trading Co.
3570 Gravenstein Highway So., Sebastopol
Sometimes referred to by locals as “Urban Ore Jr.,” this salvage shop has everything your 80-year-old home getting the HGTV Rehab Addict treatment could need: glass doorknobs, double-hung wooden windows, clawfoot tubs and old doors of just about every size. But it's also filled with old milk jugs, vintage tools, antique signs, unusual furniture and other oddities, meaning that even those without a 1934 bungalow to remodel can find strange artifacts to repurpose. (In fact, a nearby studio belongs to Tom Waits, who's no stranger to recording songs utilizing curiosities bought from Ray's.) The shop is also on “Antique Row” in Sebastopol, a stretch of Gravenstein Hwy. that's home to numerous antique stores, including the much-recommended Antique Society, and funnels drivers southward toward Recycletown, an even larger salvage outlet located on Mecham Road at the Petaluma dump. --G.M.
Pick of the Litter
1701 Piner Road, Santa Rosa
The area around Piner Road and Cleveland Ave. in Santa Rosa is a sort of thrift-store mecca, with Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity's RESTORE, and VNA Hospice all within a half-mile radius of each other. But it's this little shop that tends to capture people's hearts as the primary source of funding for Forgotten Felines of Sonoma County, a nonprofit that spays and neuters feral cats and puts them up for adoption. And though the other thrift stores in the area might have a larger selection, Pick of the Litter's stock includes kittens. That's right – cats and kittens are available for adoption on-site among the pleated '90s trousers and back issues of National Geographic. Beat that, Goodwill! --G.M.
One More Time Thrift Store
1821 4th St., San Rafael
There's something about "punny" secondhand store names that somehow lend those shops an air of authority. Located on the tail end of San Rafael’s main drag, this store –- whose name was (unfortunately) not influenced by Daft Punk’s hit –- offers everything from fine china dinnerware to a solid collection of leather handbags. One More Time is a cavernous little space that prominently features current and vintage women’s fashion and jewelry at the front of the store, though men’s clothing and sporting goods are also available toward the rear. Proceeds from your purchases go toward the Family Service Agency's Suicide Prevention hotline, which services Marin, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties. --K.P.
910 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael
910 Grant Ave., Novato
The Hospice Hodgepodges carry an assortment of merchandise, so whether you’re seeking out a classic novel or a novelty sweater, they have you covered. The San Rafael location is situated just across the street from Sol Food, making it a perfect pre- or post-dining pit stop. Eager to deck out your house for the holidays? Look no further. Both locations are known for their vast collection of holiday wares for prices that accommodate those who want to gift a lot on a budget. The Hodgepodges also stock clothing and furniture (everything from dining room chairs to teak tables) and profits go toward Hospice of the Bay. Additionally, seniors receive 10 percent off every Tuesday and various sales take place throughout the year, including their annual holiday boutique. --K.P.
Tiburon Thrift Shop
96 Main St., Tiburon
The tiny town of Tiburon is among the ritziest places in Marin, and the selection at its eponymous thrift shop on Historic Ark Row reflects this. Tiburon Thrift Shop's high standards for donations (they appreciate unusual and rare items like porcelain, stamps, vintage toys) up the chances for successful shopping, even though it may deter donations. All of their housewares, including vintage glass mixing bowls, are chip- and rust-free, and coming across vintage sewing machines and instruments is not out of the realm of possibility. In operation since the 1930s, the store benefits various organizations throughout Tiburon like the Belvedere Tiburon Landmarks Society and Saint Hilary's Catholic Church. To find out when half-off weeks are taking place, check them out on Facebook. --K.P.