Secondhand Rows

Cheap Chic: Castoffs of Thousands

Shop Talk by Kitty Kaufman

Lili Silvera knows how to have fun. Who wouldn't, when a hobby, buying good stuff at estate sales and auctions, turns into a capital business: Cheap Chic in Allston.

Silvera is classically trained in the recycling business. "We were brought up to be frugal. I can't throw anything away that still has life in it." Now she doesn't have to go looking for anything; it all comes to her. People who are clearing out their homes call her.

Silvera pays on the spot for good quality, pre-owned gear but only for what she thinks will sell. She doesn't take any donations ever because this isn't a thrift shop. Right now she's overstocked on tables, chairs, and bookcases with much of it coming from people who are moving or downsizing.

Where else could you find the castoffs of thousands? And what could be better than outfitting your kid's kitchen with everything from silverware to pots, woks, microwaves, toaster ovens, coffeemakers, irons, juicers, wine racks, hair dryers and lava lamps all for a song? The store is clean, nicely laid out and everything has a price tag.

The main room has couches, electronics, and a small rack of clothing. The mezzanine is dedicated to kitchenware, glassware both classic and trendy, and things no home should be without, Silvera says, "like these cactus-themed margarita glasses." I did see a thing or two that defy description which is all the more remarkable when you remember she bought it. "I have everything that a person starting out needs," and with that she took me downstairs where more desks and chairs were stacked beside a row of vacuum cleaners. Since so many customers are college kids, August and September business is brisk, "By September 15th there's not a thing left." Who knew recycling could be so much fun!

© October 26, 2006 for The City Shopper
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