A JEWEL ON MAIN STREET – December 2006

By Barbara Mellon

Many local shoppers are suffering withdrawal pains lately; the Thrift Shop in the old Fire Hall has once again closed its doors for the year. And what a year they had! Run by the indomitable Dot Andrews and her crew, the Thrift Shop, a major fundraising source for the Andes Society for History and Culture, brought in over $13,000 this summer. This money will go a long way to keeping the heat and electricity on in the Society’s historic buildings this winter as well as covering other necessary expenses.

The success of this venture demonstrates not only the dedication and hard work of the volunteers, but also the value of the service it offers to the community. It is more than just a place to shop on a budget; it also offers a respite from the hot summer sun and a bit of friendly chatter for those who find themselves on Main Street between 10 am and 4 pm, Monday through Saturday, throughout the late Spring and Summer.

One family comes in regularly after swimming lessons; the children occupy themselves looking for treasures while Mom browses the latest additions to the merchandise.  Sometimes they spend a few dollars, other times they leave with nothing, but what a wonderful, inexpensive way to amuse the kids during the summer break. A fashionably dressed local woman stops in every day to scour the racks for pieces to fill out her wardrobe. Looking at her, no one would know how many of her chic outfits cost her just pennies. Workmen come in for a warm shirt on a day turned cool, or to add to the collection of apparel they know will only get ruined during their daily toils by oil, paint, or whatever. Those who set up tables at Flea Markets come in for special finds to add to their wares. A young man came in to buy a number of tablecloths and placemats; he told the volunteer he wanted to cover all the surfaces in his apartment so he didn’t need to dust.

Bag sales are a particular favorite at the Shop. When the amount of donated clothing threatens to burst the sides of the old building, a bag sale is called. For $1 a bag, shoppers can stock up on clothing and shoes. During this past summer, a woman staying in town while her husband fished, wandered into the store. Upon seeing what she could get for $1, she filled a bag or two, and then came back again and again.  She said her grandchildren lived in New Zealand, where clothing prices were very high.  For just a few dollars, she could bring them tons of things on her next visit.

The Shop is also a service to those looking to weed out unwanted items at home.  While many of the contributions are well used but now extraneous, it is not unusual to get in brand new merchandise as well.  Clothing still bearing the original tags, kitchen gadgets still in the boxes, all manner of things that never suited the owner. Rather than taking these superfluous items to the Transfer Station to be discarded, donating them to the Thrift Shop is the ultimate form of recycling. Of course, the downside for those who bring things to donate is that many leave with even more items than they brought in!

A shopper browes at the Thrift Shop

Each morning, a lively group of volunteers descend upon the Fire Hall to go through the latest donations, bickering good-naturedly over how to price different pieces. They take their work seriously; broken or suspect items may go home with a volunteer for evaluation or repair, a stained but otherwise special item of clothing or linen may be taken for washing.  An amusing pastime for the workers is trying to identify some of the items brought in. A round wooden item had some stumped this year; it looked something like a porthole, but didn’t have the requisite hardware or glass. A customer later identified it as a mold.

If you haven’t yet been initiated into the ranks of the Thrift Shop clientele, look for signs signaling the re-opening next Spring. One visit and you may find yourself hooked.~