Athens thrift shop uses profits for good

Published on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 20:46 - Written by BETTY WATERS blw@tylerpaper.com

Shopping at Athens Thrift Store has dual benefits. Shoppers and store personnel say it allows shoppers to buy items at cheap prices, and the store uses profits to help community organizations that aid people with widely varying needs.

The resale store is stocked with an assortment of used goods donated by citizens.

Racks and shelves throughout the store are crammed full of clothing for men, women and children, as well as furniture, kitchenware, books, electronics, knickknacks, toys and other items.

Athens Thrift Store is a nonprofit, independent corporation that has given about $60,000 from its profits to community agencies in the three and a half years since it opened, Matthew Akin, manager, said.

 The funds are distributed quarterly in amounts ranging from $4,000 to $10,000. Agencies that benefit include the Family Peace Project and Ruby’s Safe Haven, both women’s shelters, and Henderson County Food Pantry, a food pantry run by Eastern Hills Church of Christ, Helping Hands Ministry, a hospital auxiliary scholarship program for nurses and others.

 Akin is the store’s only full-time employee. It also has three part-time employees but depends heavily on volunteers to help run the store.

 “I have a lot of great volunteers; about 20 come regularly,” Akin said. “We couldn’t’ do it (operate) without them.

 Volunteers and staff sort clothes, move furniture, clean and do everything that needs to be done.

 One volunteer is a 92-year-old woman who comes every Friday to arrange books for sale. Akin said.

 A couple of special-needs kids from the high school come every Wednesday and sometimes Tuesday to straighten up to the store’s toy area where children play while their parents shop.

 The store, which has a five-member board of directors, was the idea of Drew Douglas, a local Realtor who formed the corporation and secured the building.

 Mike Rogers has shopped regularly at Athens Thrift Store at 1419A E. Tyler St. for about a year buying video games, clothes, kitchenware and other items.

“It’s got a little bit of everything in it. We always find something we’ve got to have,” he said.  “Stuff you would spend $50 or $70 (for elsewhere), you can get here for pennies on the dollar, and it’s still in good shape and works.”

 Shopper Barbara Fisk said the store has unique gifts.

“I always look at the books. I love it here, and the people (who staff the store) are really nice,” she said. “I bring my friends from out of town.”

 Teresa Hambrick shops twice a week at the store.

“They have nice things in here. I like everything, and I like the prices,” she said with a laugh.

 The biggest part of the store’s mission is to raise money to pump back into the community through other nonprofit organizations that provide assistance that people might need, Akin said.

 “We’re trying to give those organizations money so they can do good. The other thing is we are trying to give a place where people can come and buy things at an affordable price,” Akin said.  “People can come here and buy what they need and still be able to keep their electric bill paid. That’s a good mission.

 “Not only are we raising money to give out, but we’re allowing especially a lot of lower-income people a chance to get really nice clothes and stuff they need at a very affordable price. The beautiful part about it is when these people shop here, they are helping their community as well. It gives them a chance to help out.”

 Barbara Hughes, a volunteer who helps staff the store, said shoppers will leave money on the table. If their bill totals $18 and they pay with a $20 bill, often they will say, “Keep the change,” she said.

 Shoppers are nice and interesting, Ms. Hughes said, noting some come in twice a day because they like to browse and see what comes in for sale.

“Almost every time, they will buy something,” she said.

 Guane Negarate started off as a volunteer but after several months was hired part-time.

“I saw the good that people get out of the store. The more stuff that we put on the floor, the more it sells and that’s why I like it … the good it does for the community,” she said.

 The price of clothing runs between $2.50 and $5 per item. A pair of jeans is usually $3.50. Shirts are $3.50 but may run more depending on how nice the shirt is and the brand, Akin said.

 “You can get a couch for $40 to $100 here. Appliances are $75 to $100,” he said. “Everything is usually pretty cheap here.”

 Furniture for sale includes desks, couches, recliners, kitchen tables and dressers.

 About half of sales are for clothing, the store manager estimated. But he noted the store also has furniture, dishes, books, toys, clothing accessories, hardware, sporting goods, knickknacks, craft items and electronics. The electronics include DVDs, VCRs, television sets, computers, printer and stereo equipment.

Books are on a broad variety of subjects, such as fiction, nonfiction, self help, health/fitness, medical, business, literature, education and history. Hardback books are $2 each and paperbacks are 50 cents each or three for $1.

The store inventory of goods all comes through donations from people in the community.

“We’ve been working hard to get the word out that we are here and encourage people to donate,” Akin said. “It helps the community and we give them a tax credit.”

The store will accept just about anything donated, Akin said, noting in the past it received a donated boat and an old car.

Most donations are brought to the store and there is usually someone on duty to help unload. But the store offers pick-up service.

The store is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.