By Denise Dick
BOARDMAN — Rosemary Innocenzi of Youngstown is a bargain shopping pro.
“I go to all of the discount stores,” she said while browsing through the Goodwill Store in the Boardman Plaza. “I don’t look for anything in particular — just whatever I find.”
She travels to other Goodwill stores, The Village Thrift Store in the Mahoning Plaza and other bargain hot spots.
“I don’t like to pay full price for anything,” Innocenzi said.
She’s been doing it for years and enjoys the hunt.
“I like to get a bargain,” she said.
Innocenzi doesn’t worry about gas prices as she travels from thrift store to thrift store because she believes she makes up the costs with lower-priced merchandise.
On a recent Goodwill trip, she found an Avon figurine from 1973 that matches one she already has at home.
“I’ve been looking for this,” she said. “It’s only $2.29! I’m really glad because someplace else, it would have cost me a lot more.”
Innocenzi frequents garage sales and flea markets in search of good deals too. The only time she hits a mall or department store is when she gets a great coupon or discount card that makes it worth her while.
The Youngstown woman also clips grocery coupons and scours sale fliers looking for the best deals.
With three dogs and five cats at home — most of them rescues — she relies on coupons to keep pet food costs down.
Friends who don’t have pets clip and save the food coupons for Innocenzi.
Last November, Innocenzi was in the checkout line at Giant Eagle on U.S. Route 224 with a cartful of cat and dog food and a fist full of coupons. She started chatting with the man behind her in line who looked vaguely familiar. They talked about their cats.
The cashier rang up about $78 and Innocenzi’s coupons totaled about $40. The man handed the cashier a $100 bill and gave the change to Innocenzi. It was Boardman philanthropist and animal lover Anthony Lariccia.
She later sent a thank-you card to Lariccia via Boardman Park after reading a news story about his donation to the park.
Innocenzi honed her bargain shopping days more than 30 years ago, and with the economy slumping, friends and family now ask her for tips.
Nancy Notares of Ellsworth has always been a thrift store shopper.
“I never go to a regular store,” she said while looking through the racks.
The mother of four children — now adults — is on a fixed income. While her children were growing up, she couldn’t afford to keep them all in new clothes so she shopped at places such as Goodwill.
“I would get dresses for my daughter,” the Ellsworth resident said.
When she comes into Boardman for doctor and dentist appointments, she fits her shopping around the medical visits.
Lois Love of Youngstown is another discount store regular. She visits the Boardman Goodwill store about once per week.
“I come on Wednesdays,” Love said. That’s when merchandise with a yellow tag costs $1.
On a recent Wednesday, she found two dresses for the bargain price.
To address the economic difficulties plaguing many residents, though, Goodwill Industries is offering the $1 color tag specials at its stores Sundays through Thursdays throughout the summer.
“The $1 color tag sale is very popular in our stores,” said David Ivko, retail sales director. “Realizing the economic difficulties, we’re trying to make it easier for people to get out to our stores and take advantage of the $1 sale by giving them five days to shop instead of only one.”
Goodwill has also reduced the prices on big-ticket items such as electronics and furniture. All donated electronics are an additional 30 percent off, and furniture is 40 percent off.
Like Innocenzi, Love frequents other discount establishments too.
“I like shopping and I like saving money when I’m doing it,” she said.
But because of the economy, Love has tightened her belt some.
“I used to shop two or three times a week,” she said. “Now, it’s once a week.”
Contrary to what some people may think, Goodwill has a wide assortment of new clothing and items as well as donated pieces.
Store manager Pam Channell has seen an uptick in the number of shoppers since the economy hit hard times.
Many come in looking for clothes, and regulars are sure to hit the dollar days. Goodwill stores also cater to bargain shoppers with sales and coupons.
“We get a lot of traffic here,” Channell said of the U.S. 224-Glenwood location. “That’s great.”
Mary Pyett visited the store for the first time after talking to a friend who found a number of bargains there.
The Akron woman, who works in Youngstown, has made some changes to her errand and shopping schedules to try to trim costs.
“I try to plan my errands and do them all at once,” she said.
She also is more likely to hold off on buying food items until she needs them rather than trying to buy ahead.
“Sometimes you plan to make something, but you don’t get to it and it goes bad,” Pyett said.
With a daughter living in Europe, she uses an online service called AirTicket.com to get cheaper airline tickets on standby. It’s not always convenient, but she saves cash.
“The dollar is bad enough, but then when you compare with the euro and the pound, [the dollar] is even worse,” Pyett said.