A Tahari crepe jacket dress for $116. A Kate Spade bag for $70. A Crate & Barrel leather sofa for $750. Such are the bargains to be found in Cape Cod consignment shops. In the best-case consignment scenario, fashion-conscious people buy high-end clothing and home furnishings, tire of them quickly, and make them available to their neighbors at bargain prices.
Cape Cod is a hotbed of consignment shopping, with at least 14 stores from Falmouth to Orleans offering everything from designer clothing to vintage jewelry to furniture and baby clothes. Most have automatic markdown policies and donate items that don't sell after 60 days to local nonprofit organizations, ensuring ever-fresh inventories. Many have "wish lists." Looking for an Hermès scarf or size 10 ballet flats? Leave your name and number, and you'll get a call if the item comes in. Owners belong to an informal network, which produces a brochure you can pick up in any shop.
Here's a look at the Cape's consignment shopping trail. Since serious shopping requires a strong constitution, we've added suggestions on where to stop for lunch. And should your companion be a non-shopper we also include some fun places to explore in the vicinity of the shops.
Buy Way Boutique Inc., 47 North Main St., Falmouth, 508-540-4884. Owner Lynda Henderson stocks brand-name women's fashions such as Chico's, J. Crew, and Banana Republic, and upscale labels like Escada and Burberry. She prices clothing at about a third of retail, half if an item still has tags on it. She also sells shoes, handbags, and resale and new jewelry. She once sold a full-length mink for $2,500, an item she estimates cost $12,000 new. After 60 days items go on the 75-percent-off rack.
Lunch: Osteria La Civetta, 133 Main St., 508-540-1616, osterialacivetta.com, $11-$16. Handmade pasta, fresh salads, and wines reflecting the cuisine of Northern Italy.
Sightsee: Museums on the Green, 55-65 Palmer Ave., 508-548-4857, falmouthhistoricalsociety.org. This complex has exhibits on whaling and maritime history and information about Katharine Lee Bates, the Falmouth native who wrote "America the Beautiful." Seasonal.
Second Time Around, 10 Joy St., Mashpee, 508-539-3900. Lots of little black dresses and formal wear in this clean, well-organized shop, one of a chain with locations throughout New England and beyond. Fashions include Tahari, Ann Taylor, J. Crew, and lots of
Lunch: The Tea Shoppe, 26 Steeple St., Mashpee Commons, 508-477-7261, $7-$12. Soups, sandwiches, quiche, salads, and a proper afternoon tea with scones, Devonshire cream, and preserves.
Sightsee: South Cape Beach State Park, Great Oak Road, 508-457-0495, http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/southeast/socp.htm. Walk the beach or follow the 3/4-mile Great Flat Pond Trail through coastal forests and marshes.
Also worth checking out: Consignment Classics at the Courtyard, 1337 County Road, Cataumet, 508-563-1011; D's Home Again, 93 East Falmouth Highway, East Falmouth, 508-540-2156, dshomeagain.com; Penny Lane Consignment, 331 Cotuit Road, Sandwich, 508-888-1060.
I Love It Consignment & Gift Shop, 5 Main St., Cotuit, 508-274-9151. In an 18th-century former residence, I Love It melds second-hand clothing with art, antiques, and jewelry, including sea glass creations by a local artist. Clothes run the gamut from a beautifully beaded, never-worn wedding gown for $500 to handknit children's sweaters. Karen Coleman of Hyannis Port, visiting with her daughter Krista, said she comes "for the whole experience. You never know what you're going to find here." Krista left with a fuchsia alpaca scarf for $20. On Dec. 1, I Love It will move to 704 Main St., Falmouth.
Lunch: Persy's Place, 52 Falmouth Road, Mashpee, 508-477-6633, $5-$16. Enormous breakfast menu available all day, as well as salads, sandwiches, and a signature seafood chowder.
Sightsee: Cahoon Museum of American Art, 4676 Falmouth Road, Cotuit, 508-428-7581, cahoonmuseum.org. This historical building is filled with the whimsical mermaid paintings of Ralph Cahoon along with a nice selection of American marine painting, Impressionism, and folk art.
Second Time Around, 631 Main St., Hyannis, 508-775-1145. This something-for-everyone shop (no relation to the Mashpee store of the same name) is a little overwhelming, with its massive inventory stocked floor to ceiling. In addition to clothing for men and women (including formal wear and furs), it offers furniture, bedding, vintage jewelry, orthopedic shoes, and a library corner with books, CDs, and tapes. You can snag a four-volume A&E "Titanic" series on VHS for $8. Or, you could pick up a nearly new Kate Spade bag for $70.
Lunch: Ardeo, 644 Main St., Hyannis, 508-790-1115, ardeocapecod.com, $7-$20. Mediterranean appetizers, salads, and pasta dishes and hearty wood stone pizza.
Sightsee: John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, 397 Main St., Hyannis, 508-790-3077, jfkhyannismuseum.org. Learn about the Cape Cod roots of our 35th president.
Also worth checking out: My Fair Lady, 4015 Route 28, Cotuit, 508-420-6900; Plush & Plunder, 605 Main St., Hyannis, 508-775-4467 (though technically not a consignment shop, this store has a fabulous inventory of vintage clothing dating to the 1800s, especially hats).
Consigning Women, 1 Auston Road, East Harwich, 508-432-1577, consigncapecod.com. This large, high-ceilinged, brightly lighted place feels like a department store. It's one of the few consignment shops with a significant inventory of plus sizes. Clothes are attractively displayed on racks, some organized by brand as well as size - Chico's is particularly popular, said manager Beth Pedicini. Full disclosure: This is where I bought an Eileen Fisher boiled wool jacket for $75.
Lunch: Box Office Café, 2642 Main St., South Chatham, 508-430-5211, theboxofficecafe.com, $6-$14. Gourmet salads, sandwiches and wraps, vegetarian and vegan options, beer and wine in a movie-themed cafe.
Sightsee: Cranberry Bog Tour, 374 Main St., Harwich, 508-432-0790, cranberrybogtours.com. From April through mid-December, tour a working cranberry bog and farm, home of the "craisin."
At Home Again, 1705 Main St., West Chatham, 508-348-0444. This store carries upscale furniture and accessories for home and garden. "We'll take antiques through contemporary pieces, but we are very fussy about quality," said co-owner Janice Kurlychek. "No scratches, no nicks or cracks." A leather Crate & Barrel sofa priced at $749 looked brand new. There were also several domed trunks, full settings of fine china, linens, lamps, occasional tables, Oriental carpets, and lots of original, framed art. One of the most unusual items sold, said Kurlychek, was a full-size, standing set of armor.
Lunch: Marine Cuisine, 1291 Main St., Chatham, 508-945-1173, $7-$18. Choose basics such as fried clams and scallops, or "house favorites" such as rich and silky seafood lasagna in this combination restaurant and fish market.
Sightsee: Chatham Fish Pier, Shore Road. Climb the observation deck to watch the fishing boats unload in midafternoon. You may spot seals looking for a free lunch.
Also worth checking out: In My Travels, 1223 Main St., Chatham, 508-348-0100.
While children's clothes are the exception at most of the Cape's consignment shops, they are the main event at two Orleans shops: Tots to Teens Fashion Exchange, 180 Route 6A (Hilltop Plaza), 508-255-9933, and Repeat After Me, 3B Namskaket Road, 508-255-1600. Tots to Teens carries newborn through junior sizes, meaning you can find everything from onesies to prom gowns. Because children outgrow winter coats and holiday dresses quickly, said owner Wendy Bonfini, these items tend to come into the shop looking brand new. She pointed out a girl's Rothschild fur-trimmed wool coat with matching hat and muff for $48. There's also a good selection of footwear, a sports corner with cleats and skates, and a play area for children. In addition to infant and toddler clothing, Repeat After Me sells equipment such as strollers and playpens, and maternity clothes. An Eddie Bauer double stroller that owner Amber Dauphinais figures cost over $200 new was tagged at $60.
Lunch: Land-Ho, Route 6A, Orleans Center, 508-255-5165, land-ho.com, $5-$20. A local favorite, this restaurant features nautical decor, fresh seafood, and homemade desserts. If scallop and bacon chowder is one of the daily specials, don't pass it up.
Sightsee: In summer, Skaket Beach (Skaket Beach Road, off Main Street) is a great spot to take children, said Dauphinais, with its gradual dropoff, gentle waves, and tidepools to explore.
Also worth checking out: Orleans Stock Exchange, 9 Cove Road, 508-255-2846.
Ellen Albanese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.