December 19, 2008

For the Love of the GABES!

Across South Western Pennsylvania (and Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, stretching into Virginia) Gabriel Brothers stores feature close out prices on clothing, housewares, food, shoes, toys, accessories, and just about everything.

Though there is one near my parents' house, my mom didn't really frequent Gabes when I was very young. She stuck to Hills (rip), Gimbles (rip), Kaufmann's (rip), and Penneys. I imagine it was the stigma of the closeout store that kept her from exploring it until I began insisting as a teenager. That isn't to say that my mother wasn't a deal hunter. Her brick and mortar shopping prowess is unmatched and she taught me everything I now know about bargains, sales, promotions, and coupons.

The issue was that Gabes' local reputation has evolved over time. When I was a child, Gabes was known as the place to find shirts with extra arm holes, jackets with the word "DAMAGED" written in black sharpie, or shoes with no soles attached. It was where all the misfit goods and products; Crystal Pepsi 2 liters, Peppercorn Ranch Cheese-its, out-of-market unpopular sports team merchandise, and Big Mouth Billy Bass went to die.

And it is still known for that to an extent. But a keen eye, patience, and persistence yielded me many rewards across years of regular visits to their nearest outposts.

Some of my favorite finds from Gabriel Brothers:

1. Anthropologie housewares, clothing, and sleepware.

Gabriel Brothers has recently begun buying the overstock of Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie (which are owned by the same corporate parent). Resultantly, I have purchased perfectly gorgeous dresses, nightgowns, pillows, shirts, skirts, picture frames, and books for between $1 and $15 a piece. Most of the items fall in the $1-5 range.

$1 Anthropologie top

2. Theory

Gabriel Brothers gets a plethora of Theory stuff. I have no idea how or why. I think they've gotten Bloomingdales' leftovers. Previously I have gotten beautiful tops, skirts, and men's dress shirts priced between $10 and $40. This week I got two pairs of leather flats:

One Silver and one Marine metallic leather flat (each had a mate, one of which is not shown).

3. You never know what you will find! But over the years I've found a lot.

The most random things have found their way into Gabes and then into my closet. I got a Miu Miu ruffled button down dress shirt for $10. A Lauren Moffatt skirt for $15.
Givenchy fishnets for $2. Seven for All Mankind jeans for $7. Stainless Steel Cuisinart Coffee maker for $30. C Label shoes for $5. American Apparel tshirts for $1-2. Ben Sherman dress shirts for men for $15. Penguin polos for men for $15. Calvin Klein Bedding, Nautica Bedding, Juicy Couture clothes, Marc by Marc Jacobs jeans, Wrangler for Barneys denim, J Crew cast offs, curtains, rugs, towels, bras, giftwrap, chocolates. I could go on and on and on. For a while I would scan my outfit and count how many items were Gabes finds. Although I do not visit as often or buy as much from them as I used to, I still adore the store.

Juicy Couture ruffle dress from Gabes for $20

Some things to keep in mind: Gabes is NOT for the shopping-weary. It is also not for the shopping-snobby. They have a counter in front where they cook (on a rotator) and presumably sell (though I've never seen anyone purchase one) hot dogs that appear to be from the late 1800s. The smell produced by the food counter is not glamorous. You will not be given little branded bottles of water, freshly baked cookies, or Godiva chocolates, should you become exhausted from all your hunting. Avoid the communal dressing room and opt for a private booth if you can. There is usually fresh but chewed gum in the corners of the individual changing booths so make sure your valuables don't get stuck, literally. And under no circumstances do I endorse braving the bathrooms. Maybe they have improved since I last attempted a visit? I have not explored to find out. But I can argue with confidence and anedcotal evidence that it is not worth the risk.

Finally, not every trip will yield greatness. As with any outlet style shopping, it is best to go regularly since stock is always turning over. Regardless, be sure to take your time. I am not convinced that a person can effectively visit Gabriel Brothers without spending a solid hour combing the stock. In that regard it is very much akin to outlet shopping.

In a way Gabes is an outlet. But it is also a closeout, so be sure to inspect the merchandise thoroughly for damages, holes, stains, and tears. Though it isn't the case as much recently, you don't want to get home only to find one of your precious new treasures is emblazoned with the sharpie'd word, "SAMPLE," "IRREGULAR," or "DAMAGED," unless you plan to make them part of some newfangled viral marketing campaign for DIY message tees. Remember that outlet shopping is prime "Sale Goggles" territory so be sure to keep a level head, especially since Gabriel Brothers locations are not in the most convenient locations for city dwellers and their 14 day return policy during the year (extended slightly to return gifts during the holiday season) is rigid.

Even with the lackluster return policy and the stale hot dog smell, I am excited to see what Gabes will bring to my closet the next time I can visit!


Anonymous said...

Wow. Your review has really made me want to go to a Gabe's to see what i can find. Do you know of any near Philadelphia?

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

Hi Leigh, I think the closest one might be in York, PA. Here is their list of PA stores:
Good luck finding one! Maybe you can convince others to go with you and make it a fun Gabes roadtrip? Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Gabe's sounds like the worst-best place on earth!

tshops said...

Wow -- interesting sounding store! Here in SF we have Jeremy's, which sounds similar. Do you know of A great way for you to score sales while sitting in your pj's at home :) Would love you to check it out. And also become a Trendsetter on our site -! Email me for more info!

Anonymous said...

Gabe's Sounds like a place to find great deals, but I have no tolerance for the hunt or what sounds like a bargain basement atmosphere.
Please don't compare that with Jeremy's in SF! Jeremy's is a classy place, feels more like a boutique and it's a comfortable place to shop. Their discounts aren't very low outside of the "special sale" periods.
- Michael

Anonymous said...


I've found Marks & Spencer, Woolrich (though, no high ehd Wollen Mills stuff), and Lyle and Scott all at Gabes!!! Wonderful to see the sout out here!

Ashley said...

I've never heard of Gabes! Evidently there's one in Akron though, which isn't too far from where I go to school - I'll have to check it out! I'm always down for discount designer clothes! And btw I love your Theory flats!


Eyeliah said...

I've never heard of it either, great ballet flats!

Jesspgh of Consume or Consumed said...

I wish everyone could experience the wonder of Gabes. I went with my neighbor this week and although he didn't find anything, he definitely seemed to appreciate how it was brimming with possibilities. Thanks for reading!

Lisa said...

It sounds fantastic, but I dunno if I have the patience or the prowess to find anything good. :)

Anonymous said...

Girl,you've got some things wrong. I grew up in SWPA but live on the west coast now. No trip home is complete until until I've had a Gabe's hot dog with kraut and onions and a small slushy (AND scored some urban outfitters tee for $3.50/piece...hollah!). I think the key to Gabes, given that things are often wrongly sized is to try on everything you like that even remotely resembles your size. The sheer volume of clothes you should be trying on to get a respectable haul DEMANDS the community room so you have the space to move around and quick change like some sort of deranged runway model. Plus, the community room in the Wash PA location has mirrors lining both walls so you can accurately scope out your ass.

Gabes is a hunt. You have to be both patient and willing to run down your prey. I love it.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in SWPA and get a thrill just thinking about Gabes! (There's nothing like the smell of those Gabes dogs!) My sisters and I would fill up at least one cart and then head to the community dressing room. Good times... I loved walking out of there with two garbage-bag-sized sacks of clothes that cost less than one department store outfit. I've gotta get back there!


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