HERMISTON - Mary Ponti knows a bargain when she sees one.

As a young girl she worked in her mother's clothing store after school. As an adult she made her vocation her hobby, spending much of her free time browsing through second-hand and thrift stores searching for bargains.

Now Ponti will be helping others to find those bargains. She started work at the Hermiston Goodwill Store Nov. 18 after being a steady customer there for the most of the past decade.

"I started shopping here when I moved back in 1995 and the help were like I had known them forever, they were always friendly and helpful," Ponti said.

And she knows where of she speaks. Ponti has traveled extensively throughout the United States and has taken in flea markets, garage sales and thrift stores in 49 states.

"There is only one state in the country I haven't spent any time in, and that is Maine," she laughed.

For several years Ponti had her own consignment boutique in Boise, where bargain hunting has been raised to a fine art. A variety of second-hand thrift and antique stores abound in Boise.

Ponti said she doesn't confine her bargain hunting to antiques or brand names but just looks for a good quality product at a great price. It was while browsing the stores in Idaho that she found one particularly interesting bargain.

"I did find a leather jacket at the Sun Valley Goodwill Store, it was a $600 or $700 jacket and I got it for $5," Ponti said.

Goodwill Industries had long been a favorite of Ponti's during her shopping expeditions; her retail experience also helped her to appreciate the way the stores operated. And now she is part of the friendly team she enjoyed so much while continuing to enjoy seeing what kind of merchandise comes through the store.

"This store is a real nice store," Ponti said. "I've enjoyed browsing around all the Goodwill stores. They have all been good and clean, they run a tight ship. But also its fun and exciting because you never know what you're going to get in."

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