By Lei Takanashi and Jim Ferchland
Thrift store Finders Keepers held its first auction of the year in Lake Grove, NY on Saturday, February 27.
Every month customers come to Finders Keepers to bid on a variety of items. Everything from a box full of vintage action figures, a Soviet era military jacket, even an old traffic light was up for grabs.
Finders Keepers is part of the resale industry in America, a network of approximately 35,000 stores, Adele R. Meyer, executive director of the National Association of Retail Professionals, said. The industry accounts for approximately $16 billion annually in revenue, according to market analysis tool First Research’s industry profile.
“There is a seat for every behind. If you think there is somebody out there that won’t buy it you’re wrong,” owner Bryan Burgazzoli said.
Finders Keepers opened four years ago and has attracted people from and far from Long Island, co-owner Sabbath Troisi said. The owners rent out different sections of the store to vendors who specialize in selling sports memorabilia, trading cards, Japanese plushies and more. Burgazzoli specializes in oddities and has a section of the store selling items such as human skulls, turtle eggs and his own artwork made out of objects such as mummified catheads.
According to NART’s media page, the number of resale stores has grown by seven percent in the past two years. And according to consumer research firm America’s Research Group, 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year.
The staff at Finders Keepers also buys off goods to resell from estate sales or other auctions. One of the owners, Justina Beck said she regularly takes trips to Maine since it is one of the oldest places in America where you can find antiques from the 17th-18th century. Burgazzoli said they also pick up trash and turn it into something they can sell. But making a profit isn’t the only motive for picking garbage.
“I would actually go home twice to unload my car to go back out to beat the garbage truck because I knew he was coming,” Beck said. “It just hurts to see things thrown away that have so much life and quality to them.”
Thrift stores are part of upcycling, Heidi Hunter, the director of the sustainability studies program at Stony Brook, said. “By not throwing out, and by reusing what has already been produced, we reduce our carbon footprint,” Hunter said. According to the Recycling Coalition of Utah, Americans represent five percent of the world’s population, but generate 30 percent of the world’s garbage. Owners Beck and Burgazzoli said that we live in a wasteful society that would rather replace objects than keep and refurbish them. Burgazzoli said he has found perfectly fine drawers with just a broken knob or entire drawers filled with valuable jewelry thrown onto the street.
But what gets nearly 50 people into Finders Keepers once a month for their auction is not just the chance to strike a deal but the sense of community the store creates among their customers two auctioneers, Debbie Fabrizio and John Ocasio, said. The couple have been coming to the auctions since the store opened for the adrenaline rush but also because the owners treated them like a friend or family member.
Fabrizio said that two years ago she got very sick and started to collect bibles. At one auction she went to bid on a bible but the price went too high and she backed out.
“The next time I came in here, [Burgazzoli] had a vintage bible for me and just gave it to me.” Fabrizio paused. “That goes to show you what great people they are.”