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San Clemente Journal

The Pac-Rat, Thrifting in San Clemente

Mar 28, 2022 02:57PM ● By Nina Welch

Lisa Lavoie has owned the Pac-Rat with her husband Kirk for 23 years.

by Nina Welch

The store window of The Pac-Rat, at 217 N. El Camino Real, just north of Avenida Del Mar, lights up the street even in the daytime. Lisa and Kirk Lavoie have owned this “mom and pop” thrift store for 23 years. 

Lisa moved here from Maine and as a San Clemente resident, she drives four minutes at 30 miles-per-hour to work each day. As the only employee, she runs the store six days a week, and Kirk comes in after hours to decorate the windows. Hence the lit-up display with bright lights from old-timey lamps in colors of hot pink, chartreuse and cobalt blue. 

The couple acquires their wares from garage and estate sales, and from customers who want to sell their items for cash or store credit. They don’t do consignments or accept donations. Also, the benefit of shopping at The Pac-Rat is that Lisa is willing to “wheel and deal.”

While cruising The Pac-Rat treasures, one might find the perfect vintage attire in grandpa or grandma style, or perhaps an authentic rock band t-shirt, but beware, they go fast. An array of colorful costume jewelry in the cases at check-out can also catch one’s eye. A large jeweled broach can be used to adorn a Levi jacket these days. Other popular finds consist of surfboards, bicycles, framed art, and even torso mannequins. Customers range from a five-year-old interested in Hot Wheels to the geriatric set nostalgic for vintage clothing. San Clemente is a haven for thrift-shoppers, especially along El Camino Real, and Lisa says, “Once you hit one, you hit them all.”

The Lavoies weren’t looking to buy a thrift shop 23 years ago when they were “thrifting” in a store a few blocks north of their current location. Upon walking in, the owner greeted them saying, “We’re selling this store.” Kirk answered with, “We want to buy it.” Lisa thought he was crazy, but nine days later, they were the owners of a thrift shop on N. El Camino Real. Kirk came up with Pac-Rat for the name, and the rest is history. 

Before buying the thrift shop, Lisa was a bartender at Cedar Creek Inn in San Juan Capistrano, and Kirk a server. Owning the thrift shop turned out to be a perfect fit, because they like recycling and discovering second-hand, unique finds.

The Pac-Rat can be followed on Instagram:
lisapacrat and Facebook: The Pac-Rat. 
Hours, everyday but Tuesday. 10am-5pm.