thrifting in hawaii

Courtney Takabayashi
August 16, 2019

Whether you enjoy hunting for bargains or you’ve been Kondo-ing your life, a thrift shop may be the perfect place for you. Many thrift shops are associated with charitable organizations so the money you spend goes to a good cause. Plus, donating your clothes or building your wardrobe from secondhand pieces is environmentally friendly. Meet two Hawaii residents who share their passion for thrift shopping.

more than meets the eye
Scrolling through Kahea Sugimoto’s Instagram, you might assume she spends hundreds of dollars on clothing, shoes, and accessories. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see hashtags like #goodwillfinds and #saturdaythriftinghaul. “I started thrifting because I always had my own kind of style,” she says. “And I really like vintage Hawaiian attire.” Since she lives in a small town on the Big Island, Sugimoto’s thrift store options are limited. She hits garage sales and bazaars to “find the greatest items for the greatest prices.”

Kahea Sugimoto

from survival to a hobby
When Hilo resident Bernie Pavao found out that she was pregnant, she started shopping at thrift shops, garage sales, and rummage sales. “I was about to become a single mom with a small salary,” Pavao says. “By thrifting, I could buy the things I needed for the new addition to my life for a fraction of the price.” Over 40 years later, she’s made her rounds through secondhand stores in Hilo and garage sales a couple times a week to look for toys for her 2-year-old grandson.

Bernie Pavao and her grandson

the thrill of the hunt
Sugimoto thrifts because she finds it fun and exciting. “You never know what you’ll find,” she says. “It’s the best when you find something you love at an unbelievable price.” Similarly, Pavao appreciates the anticipated surprise of looking for pre-loved items. “You don’t know what’s there and what bargains you’ll come across.”

tips for thrifting
Thrifting isn’t easy. Like any skill, it takes time to develop. Here are a few tips from Sugimoto and Pavao to help you get started or elevate your thrifting game.

  • thrift with pride. When Sugimoto started thrifting, she felt embarrassed. “I didn’t want anyone to know that I thrifted,” she says. “But I realized there’s nothing wrong with it and in fact, it’s the best way to shop! Don’t let anyone get you down.”
  • be consistent. Pavao suggests regular visits to thrift shops. “Things are coming in daily,” she says. “Some shops get brand-new items from big retail stores and other places have daily specials.” You just have to know when they put out new merchandise and when they mark down items. 
  • give back. When you donate your items, you increase the chances of someone else finding their unicorn, a rare and treasured item. In addition to donating items, Pavao sometimes goes thrifting to collect items for local charity drives or fundraisers. “I like to buy, but I give most of it away to friends or others in need.” Same goes for Sugimoto, who often donates to thrift shops. “The  thing I love about thrifting,” she says, “is that you play your part in saving the planet by reusing and recycling.”

Need some thrifting inspo? Visit Aloha Paikini (Sugimoto) and Aloha Thrifter (Pavao) on Instagram. 

Photos by Aaron Sugimoto

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