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New store tapping into thrift trend
Nonprofits banking on bargains
Sindy Meskimen, longtime volunteer and new employee of the Humane Society of Forsyth County, helps organize clothing at the organization's new thrift store in Tri-County Plaza on Tuesday morning. - photo by Autumn McBride

Thrift appears to be the new fashion.

It’s a trend Abba House Ministries and The Place of Forsyth County have noticed in recent years, and something the Humane Society of Forsyth County is banking on with the grand opening of its thrift store Oct. 9.

“There are quite a few humane societies across the country that have done this and quite successfully,” said Debbie Booth, who is managing the Cumming store. “They say it’s a great time to open, so I guess we’re going to find out.”

Booth said she’s cautiously optimistic about how the venture will fare, but she does expect to meet the goal to raise about $300,000 by the end of 2011.

“We can help a lot of animals and a lot of people,” she said. “And with this economy, there’s a lot of people that need help.”

The thrift store has unofficially opened, and thousands of donations have nearly filled the 10,000-square-foot space in Tri-County Plaza.

“We have a great Christmas section and Halloween fall section," Booth said. "We have jewelry and collectables. We have music in the library area.

We have sporting goods and yard items, toys and strollers, art and things for the kitchen, electronics, furniture

"We have pretty much whatever you can imagine.”

The Place has operated a thrift store for 35 years from its location off Antioch Road in north Forsyth.

Sandy Beaver, executive director of The Place, said the slowing economy has resulted in more customers with less money. It averages out about the same, with more than 100 customers daily and more than 200 on Saturdays.

But Beaver said more assistance and vouchers are being distributed.

“A lot of times, you know, you look at them and you can tell that they don’t have the money to spend that they used to,” Beaver said. “A lot of them have no jobs and many who were self-employed, they’re not eligible for unemployment.”

Beaver said she’s seen everything from customers with expensive cars “that have their dream home that they’re going to lose” to people with vehicles missing major components “you’d be embarrassed to drive, but they have no choice.”

Abba House’s thrift store on Dahlonega Highway has seen profits increase by more than 50 percent each year since opening in 2002. Funds raised cover about 40 percent of the ministry's operating costs to house women and their children.

The thrift store has been such a success, a second one opened a year ago on Keith Bridge Road.

“I’m sure because of the economic challenges that there are a lot of people that are happy to find slightly used merchandise instead of having to pay full retail price,” said Jim Sharp, Abba House director. “I think people have less discretionary incomes, so they’re more apt to be conscious when they buy things.

“Then, there’s the category of people that just love thrift stores because they love getting a bargain.”

Booth has already seen how popular thrift stores can be when doors to the humane society’s shop opened this week.

By Tuesday, she was frantically pricing new items that were being donated faster than she could stock them.

“It’s been amazing, the outpouring of donations and volunteer time and talents that we’ve gotten,” Booth said. “Everybody wants to help us and everybody is impressed with the store when they come in.”

By the grand opening Oct. 9, everything should be in place, including murals painted by local art organizations, Booth said.

“We’ll do whatever it takes ... so any animal can have a second chance at a healthy life or a quality life,” she said. “It’s all for the animals.”