Thriftin’ for a Mission
By Danielle Koleniak
Thrift store shopping has been around for decades, but in the Great Recession when many retail stores were closing, thrift store sales were increasing and more stores were popping up. Today, despite the improving economy and employment rate, thrift stores are holding its upward trend. ‘How much so?’ you may ask…
According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16-18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year.DOWNLOAD THE BULLETIN
For consignment/resale shops, it’s about 12 to 15 percent. To keep these figures in perspective, consider that during the same time frame; 11.4 percent of Americans shop in factory outlet malls, 19.6 percent in apparel stores and 21.3 percent in major department stores.
What you may or may not know, is that St. John XXIII Catholic Church runs a thrift store located on Tamiami Trail, ¼ mile south of Gladiolus, across from Jamaica Bay. (Yes!!!!)
The store’s sales are higher than ever. In fact, in 7 years, they’ve more than doubled.
St. John XXIII thrift store isn’t your typical pop-up, musty, dig through to find a ‘treasure’ kind-of shop. It’s well organized, smells nice, and truly sells ‘like-new’ items. I may be a little biased (or a lot), but its mission is by-far the best in town. The entire store’s proceeds support scholarships for Catholic Education. So, when you purchase a beautiful chandelier, you’re providing an opportunity for a child in need to attend St. Francis Xavier Catholic School, so there’s no ‘buyer’s remorse!’ I know, it’s a win-win.
So the next time you’ve got the itch to shop, or something in the house breaks…before you buy new, think ‘like new’ and head to St. John XXIII Thrift Store, first.
P.S. There’s a coupon on page 14 🙂
Danielle Koleniak: For parishioners who have never been in the store, what do you sell?
Cynthia Conzatti: We sell everything you use in your home: lighting fixtures, art and décor, dining sets, furniture, clothing, children’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hand bags, quality vintage items, china and crystal, lamps, linens, shower curtains, window treatments, books, sporting goods, treadmills, and flat screen TVs. We also sell new religious items. We have rosary beads, sacramental items, crucifixes and pyxes.
DK: What makes St. John XXIII Thrift Store different from the other thrift shops in town?
CC: First, our funds go back to Parish families for tuition assistance for Catholic Education. We also stay open for business all year versus closing for a month or period over the summer.
The design and layout of the 7,000 square foot store allows the shopper to engage their senses. That includes smell. We pride ourselves on being allergy sensitive, so we give every item that we take in a sniff test. If it smells musty, moldy, smoky, or offensive it gets some serious treatment or it goes back out the door.
What I love is that when you walk in, the space is open, so you can see beautiful items for sale in every direction – especially as you walk to the donation drop off area. We’ve turned quite a few donors into customers along that path. We simply don’t believe you have to ‘dig’ to find something.
Customers can feel the difference in many of our furniture pieces, too. Rosendo, Dustin, Grant, and our dedicated team of volunteers work hard to steam clean, polish, paint, repair, and refurbish worthwhile pieces that need that little extra TLC to bring them up to our standards.
The only thing we haven’t done yet to engage all the senses is to open a coffee bar – give us time. We have some great volunteer bakers who keep us fat and happy with their home made treats. Haha!
DK: Talk about the mission behind the thrift store:
CC: We have some incredibly dedicated volunteers. They’re Eucharistic Ministers, Ushers, choir members, Sacristans, and members of the Women’s Guild. They are some of our best volunteers because they are so committed to Catholic Education. We have a ton of retired educators, medical and business professionals, too. They all want the youth to be educated in the Catholic schools- that’s our number one focus. They want to give back and be a volunteer. Every year, we provide $90,000-$120,000 in scholarship money for Catholic Education.
Sometimes there is confusion as to what we make at the thrift store and what we give to Catholic Education. People don’t realize how costly it is to refurbish, repaint and buy cleaning supplies to get the items floor-ready.
Only about 25% of what we have coming in is in ready-to-sell condition. The rest takes some work. We clean it, repair or refurbish before the item hits our floor. If we can’t do it, we send it to charity or salvage. Only 10% of what we take in is not salvageable. We also pay our truck employees because it requires intensive labor to pick up and transport the furniture. We can’t risk sending our volunteers out with the truck on a regular basis. Sometimes we need to ask a volunteer to go out on the truck, but only if we’re in a pinch.
DK: Since the store is mainly run by volunteers, how are you holding up for the summer months?
CC: Right now, we really need what’s called ‘reverse season volunteers’—volunteers who can work during the summer months. It’s not a sit-down job, so you’re definitely moving things around. This time of the year we can certainly use some man power that can help lift heavier items. If someone wants to be a volunteer at the Thrift Store and already a volunteer at the church, they can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. If they aren’t a volunteer, contact the parish office 239-561-2245 to begin the volunteer process. We could also use some help in getting shoppers in the door. The best form of advertising is ‘word of mouth.’ It’s as simple as handing a friend or neighbor our business card or coupon from the church bulletin. We want people to know about us, give us a try, and think of our store first, before buying new.