GRACE BELLO clutched her prize to her chest. “This Marc Jacobs dress is making my day — I need it,” she said. At that moment, Jim DePaolis, a sales associate, raced toward her with a Diane Von Furstenberg frock in one hand and a black cocktail dress in the other.
Ms. Bello held up the little black dress, assessing its charms, as Mr. DePaolis began courting her in earnest: “I’m seeing a little retro ’60s girl,” he said. Next, he produced a punkish satin gown that bristled with safety pins, urging Ms. Bello to “imagine this with a pair of motorcycle boots.”
A style-struck pair, Ms. Bello, a writer, and Mr. DePaolis, who has worked for Banana Republic, might have been haunting some Manhattan citadel of chic — Jeffrey in the meatpacking district or Barneys on Madison Avenue. In fact they were in Chelsea, spelunking for treasures at the Goodwill store on West 25th Street.
The 5,500-square-foot thrift outlet is a laboratory of sorts for Goodwill and its 2,200 stores around the country. Intent on sprucing up an image that conjures low-end castoffs and no-frills ambience, many Goodwill stores are courting the shoppers who scour high-end resale shops and department store sales racks for bargains.
“We are making a particularly strong push right now to improve our image, our reputation and our brand, to promote Goodwill as a cool place to shop,” said Jim Gibbons, the chief executive for Goodwill Industries International in Rockville, Md.
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