Your typical tourist delights him or herself in strip malls. This person loves kitschy figurines, Hawaiian prints, bad perfume, Celine Dion, and thinks they’re slumming it when they shop at T.J. Maxx or Marshall’s. That was probably the rudest, likely inaccurate, assessment I could conjure up after only three cups of coffee, but one hidden point rings true: your typical tourist doesn’t know about Gabriel Brothers–a deal-grabbing store that puts T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s to shame.
Growing up in Marietta, Ohio, an arm’s length from Pennsylvania and West Virginia, Gabriel Brothers was a super secret lifesaver for me and my siblings. Having a mother who clips coupons for already on-sale store-brand cereal, there wasn’t any shot in Hell that my sister and I would ever be allowed to order clothes from catalogs like Delia’s. Which was oh-so-cool back then. We’d drive the 30 minutes to Parkersburg, West Virginia and sneak into this giant store, cramming our carts with Delia’s shirts marked $1.00 a piece and our mouths with cherry ICEES and soft pretzels simultaneously. Mom always gave us a limit and we always knew we could go at least $20 over that limit. “Girls, I’m serious, you get $25 each” meant “Go ahead and pack your cart with $45 worth of shit each because for every dollar I spend, I’m saving ten.”
The trick to Gabe’s is this: you have to carefully look at your clothes. All clothes are rejects from a store/warehouse/factory, but not all rejects are bad. Sure, some will have gaping holes exposing your arm pits to all of your office, but more often than not, the size is simply marked incorrectly. Or a tag is missing. Etc. And they don’t just sell clothes. Home furnishings, shoes, toys, and snacks I’d be skeptical of also make the cut.
To this day, Gabe’s is a stop-point each and every time I find myself back in the homeland. Without Gabe’s, I’d be that creeper walking around the slick streets of Manhattan in men’s sweatpants and a Michigan hoodie. Which is exactly what I’m wearing right now…
By: Elizabeth Seward