My friend Ryan recently started a thrifting side business. She travels around, visiting second-hand clothing markets and charity shops around Joburg, picks up quirky and fabulous clothes at rock-bottom prices, then advertises her best finds for sale on Instagram at @ThreeDogsThrift. (The account is named for her three tiny dogs: Jozi, Bobby, and Dash.)

Ryan thrifting at the Alberton SPCA
Ryan doing her thrifting thing.

I do not consider myself a fashionable person and the idea of traveling all over the place in search of cheap clothes had never appealed to me before. But I’ve been following Ryan’s Instagram account with interest — she only started it a few weeks ago and it’s picked up a lot of traction already — and her thrifting-inspired explorations looked like a lot of fun. When she invited me to come along with her on one of her shopping missions, I eagerly agreed.

Ryan targets a different part of the city each week — the Joburg CBD, Roodepoort, Turffontein, etc. — goes online and maps out a few clothing markets and charity shops in that area, then sets out looking for vintage bargains. In addition to selling her best finds on @ThreeDogsThrift at a modest profit, Ryan also posts thrifting tips, sizing and shipping guides, posts from other local thrifting accounts, reels about her adventures, and cute photos of her dogs.

This week’s mission included Alberton and Germiston, two areas east of downtown Joburg on the East Rand (a.k.a. Ekurhuleni). We visited three charity shops, a giant coat market, and a vintage clothing shop.

Thrifting in Alberton

We started in Alberton at the Stepping Stone Hospice Charity Shop, which sells donated clothes, furniture, books, and everything else you can imagine. Most of the clothing items sell for R100 ($7) or less, and many things are priced at R5 ($.35). All the profits from Stepping Stone go to support their hospice center in Alberton.

I couldn’t believe what a massive operation this was; the space was huge and filled with staff members sorting through and organizing donations. Ryan found a couple of great items at Stepping Stone, as did I. (I initially embarked on this mission intending only to document and not to shop, but quickly realized that was an unrealistic expectation.)

The Stepping Stone Charity Shop.
Ryan with clothes at Stepping Stone
I can’t remember if Ryan wound up buying this shirt.
Stepping Stone wedding dress
Stepping Stone has a beautiful selection of evening gowns and wedding dresses.
Tea set at Stepping Stone Charity Shop
I enjoyed looking at all the dainty tea sets for sale.
Pineapple key holder from Stepping Stone
As many of you know, I’m obsessed with pineapples. Hence I couldn’t resist this vintage pineapple key holder for R40 ($2.80).

We headed from Stepping Stone to the charity shop at the Alberton SPCA. This shop was much smaller than Stepping Stone but still fun to browse through. Ryan bought a couple of things and I took pictures.

Thrifting at the Alberton SPCA charity shop
The stock was very neatly organized.
Lady passing at Alberton SPCA
A random photo I like, shot through the door of the charity shop.

Thrifting in Germiston

Germiston is a particularly interesting East Rand suburb and its thrifting scene did not disappoint. We started at the local Hospice Charity Shop (49 3rd Ave, Lambton, Germiston).

Hospice Charity Shop in Germiston
Ryan sorts through the modest rack of clothes in the Germiston Hospice shop. This shop has tons of books and kids’ stuff.

At this point we were getting hungry, so we paused our thrifting and went to lunch at the Apple Bite Roadhouse in Germiston. You know I love roadhouses and the East Rand has some of the best. We had a nice meal at the Apple Bite, but I was disappointed to discover the restaurant no longer has its spectacular neon sign.

Apple Bite Roadhouse
The Apple Bite Roadhouse, sans neon sign.

Ryan saved the best for last. After lunch we hit Cheapside, a huge warehouse full of coats and jackets in a particularly gritty Germiston neighborhood.

Cheapside market in Germiston
Cheapside.
Ryan in Cheapside
Ryan browsing through the insanely large number of coats at Cheapside.

According to Ryan, the stock at Cheapside (and other warehouses like it) is shipped in bulk into South Africa from Europe. Most of the coats at Cheapside sell for R50 ($3.50) apiece but the nicer ones are sold by weight (still cheap).

Heather in a Cheapside coat
I bought this, along with a really cool sport coat for Thorsten.
Ryan in purple leopard spots
This purple, leopard-spotted number was in the “fur coat” section and cost a bit more, so Ryan didn’t buy it. I think she regretted her decision afterward.

After visiting Cheapside I realize it makes no sense to buy a brand-new coat, ever. More generally, it makes so much more sense to buy clothes second-hand rather than new. If Cheapside is any indication, this planet is already swimming in enough clothes to last humanity for many generations to come.

We finished the day at my favorite place: Germiston Vintage Clothing (140 Meyer Street, Germiston). Nomalanga Ndebele, owner of Germiston Vintage Clothing, started out like Ryan — buying vintage clothes and selling them as a side gig. Now Nomalanga does this full-time and has based her business in a brick-and-mortar shop. The clothes she sells are stunning.

Nomalanga Ndebele at Germiston Vintage Clothing
Nomalanga rocking a jaw-dropping red velvet gown on a Monday afternoon and totally owning it.
Germiston Vintage Clothing
Nomalanga and her niece Cynthia, who also works in the shop, surrounded by pretty frocks.
Heather and Ryan at Germiston Vintage Clothing
I bought this jacket for R300 ($21) — pricey by rock-bottom-thrifting standards but cheap by new-velvet-blazer standards.

I can’t recommend Germiston Vintage Clothing highly enough. Check out their offerings on Instagram at @germiston_vintage_clothing.

Also, do yourself a favor and follow @threedogsthrift. Even if you aren’t in the market for vintage clothes, it’s fun to follow Ryan’s thrifting adventures and her presentation is fabulous.

I might be hooked on thrifting now.

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