Welcome to Lake Union St. Vinnie’s

By Paul Dorpat. Edited by Sally Anderson.


While certainly welcoming, perhaps broader meanings for this sign come from within. It reads: “DOORS Take a Look! Prices to Please!” and hangs beside a ceramic grouping of John the Baptist baptizing Jesus. I was of a habit to silently continue: “Please remember, I am the way, the truth, and the light.” Or: “Please knock and it shall be open unto you.” Or both.

The friendly if surreal tableau was a fixture at St. Vincent De Paul on Fairview Avenue along the southeast shore of Lake Union. It was propped overhead on beams and set about halfway down the “Grand Boulevard” on the left side. If you ignored the arrow and took a sharp left instead, eventually, if you watched your head and kept going, you might reach a curtained inner sanctum in which were kept the damaged statues. (The pictured group of busts on pedestals printed here is a simulation only.)

Roman busts on pedestals

I have recently recovered – stumbled upon – Kodachrome slides of the sign with John and Jesus, as well as four other St. Vinnie’s details from a 1967 visit. I’ll use them now to reflect on the pleasures and past uses of one fondly remembered thrift store.

It may also be well-timed. Some of us – but not all – are now more likely to need a discount and ready to also “use the used,” which is to recycle other people’s stuff. Sadly, this fountain of surplus value – Our St. Vinnie’s by the Lake, which was one of the best – is long gone, replaced by yet another bistro…..(click to continue)

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