Housing Works: Good Bargains for a Good Cause

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By Laura Shanahan How would you like a tall, elegant, black-glazed ceramic mug with an outsized curvy handle for only two bucks? Pretty darn good deal, eh? How about if I told you the mug had "CPW Dentistry," along with the business's phone number imprinted in white? Would that be a deal-breaker-or up the ante for you? Whether you're a fan of the ironic, the kitschy, the camp, the scarce-or just can't resist a bargain-you will want to get your fine self to a Housing Works Thrift Shop, where I just spotted the above. And if you're within the sound of my voice, or at least within the geographic parameters of this newspaper, be assured there is an HW near you: from the Upper West Side (Broadway and 96th) to Chelsea (143 W. 17th St.), with pit stops between. If you dare to cross our southern border, be advised you needn't pack a sandwich in case you get lost: The HW bookstore café at 126 Crosby St. has snacks and suds. Has it really been two decades since the original HW shop opened on West 17th? Indeed it has, and while there are now various outposts, know that shopping at whichever locale you choose helps the same worthy cause: ending the often twinned crises of HIV and homelessness. Speaking of homelessness, many of us lucky enough to have roofs over our head have entered the nesting stage of winter: post-holidays, we're tired and broke and weather-whipped. Ah, here's the fix: a steaming mug of cocoa in, say, that "CPW Dentistry" mug we were smart enough to snag! What could be more cheering than serendipitously scoring when sorting through often one-of-a-kind wares being sold for a song? Not that it need be said-though here I go saying it, anyway-in any venue with many singular pieces and high turnover, please take examples cited here as simply, though accurately, representative of the kinds of finds you can expect; you may well discover even better stuff. That said, there's often a good selection of small, novel kitchenware, and if you're looking for a new mug, or want to add to an existing collection of quirky cups, consider such additional examples as the one reading "Howe Caverns" with a colorful, if hard to figure out, depiction of the natural attraction ($2); and "YOGA BADASS" followed by "deal with it" (um, should a yoga devotee be this truculent?). The latter cup, perhaps to make up for its bad attitude, had a $1 sticker. Perhaps most predictably, what you should find at these thrifts are lots of blue jeans at OMG prices. I spotted men's classic five-pocket Gap Boot Fit jeans tagged at $10, the same price I recall seeing on denims at HW maybe 10 years ago. A dusky blue-and-black-checked Calvin Klein Jeans casual men's shirt in irresistibly soft cotton was going for $15. There often seems to be a plethora of black separates for women (well, this is New York); in black skirts alone, I spotted velvets, faux suedes and real leathers. Loved a humble black corduroy-label missing, but who cares-tailored skirt for $15. Paired with a fitted blazer, such as the Grace Elements paisley brocade tagged at $25: knockout. "Oooh, a Slinky!" a grown-up near me suddenly exclaimed, as she reached over for the "famous walking spring toy," selling for $2. "I haven't seen one of these in a long time," she wistfully added, as she played with the toy that, as its box declares, "moves without motors!" See-serendipity: What'd I tell you?

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