Thrift-shop chic got a new meaning Saturday night at the grand opening of The Garage, an indoor annex to the Sixth Avenue parking lot flea market certain New Yorkers attend more religiously than church. Close to 2,000 people descended on the lower level of the two-story space, packed to the fluorescents with vintage objets -- priced to move.

A big percentage of profits was going to the Children's Hope Foundation. As event chairman Todd Oldham explained between scribbling bids for the silent auction, "It's all going to buy medical supplies for kids, and funds for field trips. That's what this is about...and shopping...and drinking." Oldham himself managed a good haul, including a 4-foot plaster Madonna.

The fashionable time to arrive was anybody's guess.

"We wandered over right at 8 and we couldn't believe how many people were already waiting to get in. I put a bid in on the klieg light outside," said Monica Lynch. "I'll put it in my apartment -- I'm installing a dance floor area."

Fred Schneider, king of the thrift shop aesthetic, was cradling a monkey doll he bought for $30. He and the other B-52's have been working on a new album, and said they recently performed with ex-band member Cindy Wilson. "All those rumors that we threw her out of the band were so ridiculous."

Most of the crowd that arrived after 10 were more concerned with staying warm than bargain-hunting. "There are too many people," said Tatiana Von Furstenburg, though she admitted that some shutters caught her eye. That's what you call window-shopping.

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