I discovered salvage stores after moving from New York City to Maine. Now I get J. Crew t-shirts for $1 and Madewell jeans for $19.

  • My husband is from Maine, and on my first visit to his home state, he took me to a Marden's store.

  • Marden's is a salvage store where you can find all kinds of items for a heavily discounted price.

  • We've moved to Maine from New York City, and now only shop at Marden's.

My husband and I met while we were both living in New York City. Months into dating, and after having planned a road trip to see Phish play live, he invited me to visit the home in Maine where he grew up.

I had never been to Maine, but was excited to visit a new state. While we packed for our road trip and concert camping, he told me if I was missing anything, we could stop at Marden's. I figured he meant stopping at a supermarket or convenience store.

When I first walked into Marden's, my mind was blown. It's a salvage store where you can find almost anything you can imagine at a heavily discounted price.

Marden's only exists in Maine, and while there are some salvage stores in New York City, they are mostly for purchasing construction items, not clothing. What makes Marden's interesting is that you can find furniture, home improvement items, clothing, pet supplies, sports items, and food.

Since that first visit, we've moved to Maine, had three kids, and now almost exclusively shop at Marden's.

What is a salvage store?

Marden's website describes the store as a "surplus and salvage" store with the best bargains in the state. The store buys merchandise from shops that have closed, gone bankrupt, liquidated their stock, or otherwise need to get rid of items.

Racks of Madewell jeans
Racks of Madewell jeansCourtesy of the author

Part of the fun of visiting a salvage store is that you never know what you'll find. While Marden's has a section of basics — like T-shirts, underwear, and sweatshirts — everything else changes. The shoe section, for example, can go from having high-end Nike's to low-quality water shoes.

Most of the store's items are at least 50% off the regular price, if not more. They keep high price-tag items — usually designer shoes, computers, game consoles, and even Plan B — behind locked glass.

Plan B for sale
Courtesy of the author

I've bought everything from skis to a black-tie dress

Now that I live here, one of my favorite weekend activities is seeing what Marden's has to offer. I've walked in to find recent collections from J. Crew and Madewell, with clothes selling from $1 to $20. I bought my kids J. Crew items like T-shirts and leggings for $1 and Madewell jeans for myself for $19, which I would never buy at full price.

Recently, I saw a mom posted about the store having new kids' skis for sale. I sent my husband running to the store since skis were on our list to buy, and since they are so expensive — especially with three kids — we didn't want to miss out on a deal. Turns out it wasn't just kids' skis; the store had ski items for all ages at half price. My husband ended up buying skis, bindings, poles, and helmets for everyone.

Racks with skis
Courtesy of the author

One time, I showed up with my mom, who was visiting, and the entire store was filled with plants. I bought lots of flowers to decorate our garden and spent less than $50.

Another time, Marden's had bought out an entire black-tie store, and I was able to buy a floor-length sequin dress for $10. I still haven't worn it because there are so few black-tie events to attend here. But I still think it's a steal, even if it's sitting with tags on, waiting for the perfect occasion.

You have to inspect items thoroughly

Of course, there's a catch. I make sure to inspect every item thoroughly since some come damaged or heavily stained. More than once, I've picked something off the rack only to discover it's ripped or the zipper is missing.

Kids holding tennis raquets
Courtesy of the author

For food and beauty items, I check the expiration date before purchasing.

Shopping at Marden's requires lots of time

Marden's has several locations across the state of Maine, and I've visited five so far. They are all different. Some focus more on clothing, while others have household items. What they all have in common is the need to rummage through the store to find gems.

Sometimes you luck out, beat the crowd, and get to shop easily. Most of the time, you are either racing against other shoppers, trying to find the best deals, or looking through piles of things to find something you want or need. Still, it's worth it for the big discounts and the surprises I sometimes find.

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