02/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Thrift Stores Thrive As Economy Tanks

Americans are rediscovering the fusty fix-it shops and unassuming secondhand stores on their local Main Streets. These businesses, once the left-behind nooks of gentrifying downtowns, are busier than ever amid an economic slump that's emptied out neighboring bistros, boutiques, and day spas.

On a Saturday afternoon in downtown Alameda, Calif., Gabe Morgan waits in a line of customers at The Watch Hospital to get a timepiece fixed. The economic downturn has made him think more about repairing than buying new.

"For the first time in I don't remember how long, I got some shoes repaired," says Mr. Morgan. He dug out three pairs from his closet for resoling. "I wanted to save some money."

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