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Secondhand news

Saratoga brims with trendy retail shops, where everything is brand-spanking-new. But for thrift-store and tag-sale aficionados, it also offers a few places that sell some very cool castoffs.

Last Vestige (437 Broadway), for example, carries used LPs and CDs. Everything from Louis Armstrong (Hello Dolly, 1963) to Duane Eddy (Have “Twangy” Guitar, Will Travel, 1958) to Frank Zappa (Sheik Yerbouti, 1979). Any of the CDs or records can be screened at one of several listening stations at the front of the store. Still, some of the lesser-known ones have descriptive notations written by the staff (Peccatum: “Tori Amos meets PJ Harvey”; The Quick Ones: “Kinda like a less annoying Billy Corgan”). “We’re at the whim of what people bring us to sell,” says Walt Wallen, the store manager. Are there albums he won’t accept? “Mantovani,” he says. “But anything else is OK.”

Wallen and his employees (often a Skidmore student or two) like to be helpful. If they can’t find something, they'll check the parent store in Albany (or you can peruse the inventory yourself at lastvestige.com). One recent morning a mother and three waist-high kids wandered in. Wallen chatted with them about school for a bit. “Do you have any Metallica?” one of the boys finally asked. “I don’t think we do, not on CD,” said Wallen. “How about the Beatles?” the girl piped up. “The Beatles?” repeated Wallen, who recently sold an early pressing of The White Album for close to $100. “I have just the one for you—it’s their number-one hits.” “Mom, I need three dollars,” the girl said. Wallen rang her up and encouraged them to stop by again.

“We try to make this a comfortable place,” he says. Celebrities often come in, especially in the summer: Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats, Neil Young’s manager, Poison drummer Rikki Rockett. “Being music geeks, we recognize these people,” Wallen says. Jockey Julie Krone stopped in too, he heard.

Even if you’re not a record bum, you might check out the vintage clothes at the back of the store (lots of velour, acetate, and sequins, plus stacks of jeans arranged by waist size).

There’s more at Reruns (1 Phila Street), a consignment shop run by Stuart Armstrong. He sells “just about anything I think people will buy. Except war memorabilia.” On the main floor—which has a homey (if congested) ambience—there are radios and lamps, suitcases and fur coats, ashtrays and salt and pepper shakers, quilts and baby shoes. Armstrong has sold old gambling chips from local illegal casinos and plates from the now-extinct Grand Union Hotel. But vintage wear is “the backbone of the store,” he says. Costume jewelry is popular too—especially with Skidmore students.

The dimly lit back room (where the clothes are) is a mess, he cautioned a late-summer visitor. “It’s been so busy, I just haven’t gotten in there with my pitchfork.” It was true: hangered garments were mercilessly smooshed together on racks, and some had fallen to the floor. In the doorway, a mannequin—whose disheveled hair and lopped-off arms minimized the allure of her sea-green negligee—stood guard over the vestments, many of which sported outlandish patterns. (Gaudy colors—“that’s what people are looking for,” says Armstrong.)

“Here’s something you can’t do without,” he told the visitor, holding up a sun-bleached, 1940s all-cotton bathing suit that had just come in from a consignor. It was a two-piece number, white and chartreuse with repeating hot-pink whales. “Or this?” he offered, holding up a mustard-hued sleeveless dress with a belt of fake gold coins. “It’s 100 percent synthetic,” he added unapologetically.

Does Saratoga recycle? Oh, yeah. And that’s a good thing. —MTS