Fashion / Shopping

Icons of Houston Resale Unite For the Launch of the Ultimate Thrifting Guide — Lady Mary Beth Shares Her Best Secrets

Largely Run By Selfless Volunteers, These Shops Make a Difference in the City

BY // 05.18.24
photography Emily Jaschke

When Houston’s beloved Beyoncé was in town for a concert in the fall, her team knew just where to go to purchase some last-minute items (crystal glasses and decanters) for the green room backstage: The Guild Shop on Dunlavy Street in Montrose. To those in the know, it’s no surprise. For more than 60 years, The Guild Shop of St. John the Divine, whose mission is to help elderly in need in the greater Houston area, has been a coveted spot for designers, collectors, thrifters, pickers and resellers.

Now, anyone can be as in the know as Beyoncé’s team with the launch of Lady Mary Beth’s Houston Resale Guide & Map. Three icons of Houston resale, The Guild Shop, Blue Bird Circle and Charity Guild Shop, which are all stocking free copies of the beautiful map, made history by joining forces for the first time ever to celebrate the launch of the map. It happened in a special after-hours shopping event complete with refreshments and hors d’oeuvres at all three Montrose locations.

The Guild Shop enlisted historian Mister McKinney and his charming yellow open-air Houston History Bus to transport everyone to the three spots while sharing history about the neighborhood.

Mary Beth Schmitz, aka Lady Mary Beth, is a lifestyle expert and gift connoisseur who scours thrift stores and consignment shops for the best of the best and shares her finds on her weekly YouTube show. Armed with a former career at Waterford crystal and a passion for tabletop, Lady Mary Beth has been taking groups to favorite stores and sharing how to identify quality items for years. Friends encouraged her to begin sharing online and she quickly gathered a loyal following.

“I started thrifting at The Guild Shop in high school, drawn to the quality and craftsmanship of vintage items,” Lady Mary Beth tells PaperCity. “My best find yet is John F. Kennedy’s teacup from Air Force One, found at The Guild Shop for $20. I had it in my collection for years before I realized the historical significance.

“This rare find has been authenticated by a premier presidential memorabilia collector.”

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Lady Mary Beth (Photo by Emily Jaschke)
Lady Mary Beth (Photo by Emily Jaschke)

Her followers rely on her well-trained eye. At the resale map launch party, Lady Mary Beth had a curated table of finds at each location. She went through the significance, craftsmanship and value of each item to a buzzing crowd. At The Guild Shop, Lady Mary Beth selected a large crystal punch bowl and revealed the original intent of another crystal piece (pillar candle holder that could be repurposed as a nut bowl). At Charity Guild Shop, she shared a Fostoria American glass cake stand, sharing that the pattern is the most prolific pattern in American glassmaking. At Blue Bird Circle, a Waterford Irish cake stand that can be overturned and used as a chip and dip tray nearly caused a frenzy as she divulged its value and significantly lower sticker price. Shoppers quickly snatched up the items at each venue as she finished her speech.

The Thrifting Revolution

The impressive turnout of devoted shoppers attending the launch party is a testament to the tremendous success of these three resale shops, and a growing popularity in thrifting and consignment shopping in general. The Guild Shop promised swag bags for the first 20 customers, and there was a lengthy line down the sidewalk for people eager for first pick inside the stores.

“Houston is the number one city in Texas for thrifting,” Lady Mary Beth says. “The guide showcases the diverse range of resale stores across the Houston area. We aim to encourage sustainable and affordable ways to enhance home, fashion and gifting. My viewers travel from all over our state and around the country to shop stores I feature on the channel.

“This encourages tourism and has a positive economic impact. The map of resale shops will foster community engagement by bringing together enthusiasts and collectors who share a passion for antiques and thrift.”

Resale devotees were giddy with excitement to see the three bastions of Houston resale come together for an event and enjoyed mingling with fellow old beautiful thing enthusiasts.

“The spirit of collaboration between the shops was never more evident after months of working together, holding weekly meetings, and knowing that we are all here for something bigger than ourselves,” The Guild Shop executive director April Lykos says. “What transpired was a true partnership between the Houston icons of resale.”

The three shops plan to continue to meet quarterly to ensure they are doing the best they can to further their missions.

Karina Patman, Armelinda Ibarra, Lady Mary Beth, April Lykos, Donna Bruegel (Photo by Emily Jaschke)
Karina Patman, Armelinda Ibarra, Lady Mary Beth, April Lykos, Donna Bruegel (Photo by Emily Jaschke)

The mission is a huge part of what makes resale shopping at these three iconic stores so compelling. It is retail therapy of the best kind. Not only does the shopper get the rush by finding something of high quality for a good deal, but also from the knowledge that the proceeds go to help the community, and the act of resale shopping helps the environment by ensuring something isn’t landfill bound.

“More and more people are shopping at our store and our sales have steadily increased over the past few years,” says Kathleen Falcona of Charity Guild. “In fact, I think thrifting and resale shopping has increased everywhere lately. Perhaps because of inflation, the economy, quality of the merchandise or just a general interest in sustainability. And on the flipside, we are getting many beautiful consignments as people are downsizing and living more simply.”

Those sales help support the mission of the 102-year-old Charity Guild of Catholic Women, which renders assistance to children in need in the greater Houston area.

As the sales increase for each store, the general age of the average shopper may just be decreasing.

“We are happy to see more and more younger shoppers embracing more traditional furnishings and decorative items,” Blue Bird Circle president Trish Greaser says. “When it comes to clothes, we have the latest fashions and styles for every age shopper.”

Blue Bird Circle, 101 years strong, is a circle of volunteers that provided hope, love and healing to kids with neurological disorders.

It is also extraordinary that shops doing the business on the scale of The Guild Shop, Blue Bird Circle and Charity Guild Shop are largely run by volunteers. Not just any volunteers, but passionate, knowledgeable and friendly volunteers who make shopping at these institutions an absolute joy.

 

Anne Lee Phillips serves on the board of directors of The Guild Shop.

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