Forget Target and Walmart and those crazy expensive pop-up Halloween stores that have taken over every shuttered retail store wiped out by Amazon.
In Los Angeles, the thrift stores this weekend were overrun, jammed with big men trying on giant baby clothes and real cowboy boots and hipster women donning zombie duds and, of course, anything hot they could find. And people were buying like crazy because, yes, you can find what you want or figure it out on the spot.
Much of this is real stuff once worn by somebody, and incredibly cheap, thus the big draw of hipsters, working-class folk and little kids all this week. They are cramming into Goodwill in the San Fernando Valley and South Bay, Salvation Army in the San Gabriel Valley, Out of the Closet in Studio City and Hollywood and Disabled Veterans Charities in Glendale.
As we scoured the city for anything resembling a giant lizard, we turned to the grandmother of all Los Angeles thrift stores, St. Vincent de Paul.
And yes, St. Vinny gave it up: a scaly-looking giant neck and collar thing from God-knows-what tacky horror film for $9, a pile of fabric that looks exactly like animal skin for $6, and some bizarre floppy shoes, easy to spray paint for $8.
Now all that's needed is the lizard head.
The massive St. Vincent de Paul in Lincoln Heights, just north of Chinatown, has been featured by L.A. Weekly in the past as the best thrift store in the land, and it's even got a PR consultant for this hottest of thrift store holidays: Kay Hwangbo.
Hwangbo said the store is slashing its prices (as of two days ago) for last-minute shoppers, and is trying to figure out a way to accommodate more Halloween shoppers in its big parking lot. A Mexican food truck is providing sustenance for hungry visitors who find their way to this huge warehouse in the industrial part of Lincoln Heights, where two upscale condo complexes have recently invaded.
"Sometimes we'll have 10 to 15 people in the section at the same time," said St. Vincent de Paul store manager Jorge Menjivar.
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Which could get ugly, but doesn't.
Thrift store buyers are cool — they don't snatch things from other shoppers or wrestle over the last pair of XL leopard tights.
Eventbrite, the parties and events registration website, lists 66 Halloween events in the Los Angeles area alone, and Time Out says at least six major adult Halloween parties are in the offing, big enough to be considered "events."
The thrift stores of Los Angeles are ready for your close-up.