Resale Professionals. Today there are
about 30,000 coast to coast.
Hard times have brought in hordes
of new “thrifters”—one in six adults
now shops at the stores. Many are
50-plus. It’s more than frugality that
makes thrifts appealing, says Michael
Gold, who runs The ThriftShopper
.com, a searchable listing of more than
10,000 thrifts that benefit charities.
“Some customers grew
up in the Depression.
And many grew up dur-
ing World War II, with
an ingrained under-
standing of the impor-
tance of volunteering.”
Many thrifts rely on
volunteers. At the Ele-
phant’s Trunk, a 13,000-
square-foot store in Ven-
ice, Fla., they outnumber
paid staff 24 to 1. “We’ve
donated $7.8 million to
the community since 1951,” says store manager
Stephanie Elliott. Beneficiaries include hospital
patients and their families, students pursuing
nursing or medical careers, and the Lions Club.
At the Hillcrest Thrift Shop in Kansas City, Mo.,
the ties with the older community are strong. The
store’s weekly 55+ Day, with its half-off prices, attracts busloads. “We sell high-end donations for
dirt-cheap, so people can buy items for a dime or a
quarter and, I believe, reminisce about their childhood,” says manager Lou Warner.
Fashion shows at the thrift store and local nurs-
ing homes generate money to support transitional
housing for the area’s homeless. “It’s a hoot,” says
Warner. “We have our volunteers modeling mer-
chandise, as the announcer says, ‘Can you believe
this entire outfit—with accessories—can be yours
for only $8?’ ”
In Orland, Calif., a town of 7,000 north of Sac-
MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK
The Elephant’s Trunk (top
right, lower left) in Venice,
Fla., and Kansas City’s Hillcrest draw locals who want
to volunteer or just chat.
ramento, proceeds from the Twice Is Nice Senior
Thrift—manned by 30 older volunteers—go to
the local senior center, which hosts classes, card
games and weekday lunches.
“It’s $2.50 per meal. But most seniors come—
some in shuttle buses from local care facilities—
because it’s something to do, a chance to socialize,” says Darlene Friesen, president of the board
that oversees the senior center.
The popularity of thrifts among retirees is driv-
ing changes in the industry. New stores are big-
ger and handicapped-friendly, located in upscale
communities, with ample parking, brighter light-
ing and wider aisles.
Many thrifts give spe-
cial treatment to older
donors, such as off-site
estate sales, auctions
and free packing and
Sid Kirchheimer writes about scams and
Think “thrift” and
you probably think of
Army and local stores
run by churches,
and other nonprofits.
They solicit dona-
tions and sell them
to bargain hunters
to benefit charitable
causes. But many in
“resale” industry are
some that call them-
selves thrift stores.
“Most people think
that everything they
donate goes to char-
ity,” says one longtime
thrift store worker.
“That’s not true.”
Some for-profits buy
donated goods from
charities, paying bulk
rates and sometimes
giving them a portion
of the proceeds. Oth-
ers buy from neigh-
borhood yard sales
and auctions and
resell at a markup.
If you’re a donor (or
buyer) who cares
that your money will
go to charity, stick
with thrifts that have
federal 501(c)( 3)
status and devote
at least 75 percent
of their revenues to
charity. You can check
up on specific organi-
zations at the Better
charity web page or
the nonprofit group