Boomerangs: What Goes Around Comes Around


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Truett C. Killian's picture

Central Square Thrift Store Offers Unique Porthole Into Life of Locals

Today I took the Redline to Central Square, and after walking a block I found myself inside Boomerangs, a Massachusetts thrift-store chain. The first thing I noticed upon entering the store there was a colorful sign on the ground which read, “the best is yet to come.” I would have to agree with that sentiment because throughout the next hour I sorted through piece after piece of cantabrigian relics.  

To my left I wandered into the entertainment section of the store. A cart of films was in the center of the room, on every medium from Bluray to VHS. The older technology was refreshing seeing that most people today a VCR is a ’60s rock band. Behind the movie cart was an old speaker dock with two boxes on top. One of the boxes was filled with vintage parchment; the other box was full of of vintage comic books. The music selection was interestingly curated housing albums from Britney Spears on compact disk to ZZ Top on Vinyl.
The bookshelves surrounding me contained the most eclectic assortment of books I could imagine. I feel as if I could teach myself anything I needed in this shop, as there were how-to manuals spanning topics from plumbing to “growing up native in Alaska.” Famous works from James Patterson and Stephen King unassumingly sat next to more obscure titles, such as the leatherbound, “Economic and Social Investigations in Manchester 1833-1933.”

I walked around further to find myself near the dressing rooms, the doors of which were plastered with flyers for local events. To my right was an wall of glassware, with everything from mason jars to mugs; to my left were shelves interspersed with an array antiques and gag gifts. A victorian-looking ceramic doll leaned her arm against an inverted beer glass.

Interesting and unique mannequins also scattered fill the store. My favorites were painted and had elongated necks. Around me, a steady stream of customers came and went. I stood around watching the people around me to see a diverse crowd. I saw students searching for books, a man shopping for a job interview, and a man buying artwork for their apartment.

I spoke with Phil, the manager of Boomerangs, who told me some more about the operations of the store. He told me that Boomerangs has four other stores in Boston, all of which accept donations locally. Hard goods, things like tables, remain in the stores, whereas clothing items are sent to a centralized warehouse and distributed to each of the the four locations.

I asked Phil what the most eclectic item he had encountered was, and he told one time somebody donated a crab-apple doll. I had never heard of such a thing, but he told me it is when you take a crab-apple fruit, “dry it and shrink it … to be the face of a doll.” If you would like to have nightmares, you can see one here.

While Boomerangs is a thrift-store, its employees actually work for the AIDS Action Committee, the largest AIDS service organization in New England. After operational costs are covered, 100 percent of the stores profits are sent to the AAC to support the organization.

The AIDS Action Committee, which was founded in 1983, serves mainly to promote effective AIDS policies and advocate for HIV and AIDS patients. The organization is proud that Massachusetts is considered one of the most proactive states at combatting AIDS, and has likewise seen a 52 percent reduction in new diagnoses of HIV since 1999.

Walking through Boomerangs is an interesting experience. The shelves are seemingly refilled every time I’ve been. Shopping there is a unique way of exploring the local history of Cambridge, which grants you the ability to see through a porthole into Cantabrigians’ lives.

After spending around an hour inside of Boomerangs I ventured into the book section one last time. I happened to find a Juliann Garey novel which was signed — either by the author or someone who likes instilling false hope in people. I took it to the front of the store to pay where I noticed a sign declaring “books half off on Thursdays.” The cashier was exceedingly friendly, and he was wearing a penguin costume. I didn’t ask why.