The thrift that keeps on giving
In today’s cash-strapped times, thrift stores are rapidly becoming a critical lifeline for local charities.
The Pals Thrift Shop on Point Finger Road in Paget has raised more than $1 million for the cancer charity in its four years of existence. Last year, alone, the shop raised $250,000, and it is open only on weekends.
“On Saturdays we open at 9am and people are lining up at 8am,” said Colleen English DeGrilla, Pals executive director.
Browsing in thrift shops used to be something for people without funds but these days it has become almost a sport for people of all demographics.
“There are a lot of people who spend their Saturdays going from thrift store to thrift store,” Ms DeGrilla said. “I know a doctor who loves thrifting for clothes and jewellery.”
She said the trend was being driven, in part, by an increased interest in sustainability and recycling.
Ms Degrilla said that since the pandemic, they had received a lot of donations from people cleaning out their closets. They also get clothing donated by local stores.
“Some of this stuff still has the tag on,” Ms DeGrilla said. “You can find some really good deals. When we first opened we had a Vera Wang wedding dress. We sold it for a couple of hundred dollars, but it was probably worth thousands. We are the boutique of thrift stores.”
Habitat for Humanity Bermuda opened their thrift store, Restore, in the old Blucks building at 4 Front Street in Hamilton, 18 months ago.
“It is absolutely phenomenal,” said Sheelagh Cooper, chairwoman of Habitat for Humanity Bermuda.
“It has been a huge help as far as our projects are concerned. I think we are particularly fortunate because the Blucks family have given us the building to use for free. All of our staff are volunteers. All of our items are donated, as with many thrift stores. We have the perfect business model.”
Funds from Restore helped them to open the Transformational Living Centre on Parsons Road in Pembroke last November, a centre helping mothers and children.
Restore sells a lot of home furnishings, kitchenware and bedding so many of their clients are people refurbishing Airbnbs, digital nomads and young people setting up their first apartments.
“At Restore, you could outfit your entire kitchen for under $50,” Ms Cooper said.
Friends of Hospice, the charity that funds Agape House, opened Little Angels on the ground floor of the Washington Mall back in March.
They sell second-hand baby clothing, maternity wear, children’s books and toys. They rent out child-related equipment such as car seats and they have a music and sensory programme for children up to three years old on Wednesday mornings.
They are using the shop to raise money for a new Agape House palliative care facility.
“The feedback from customers has been great and people continue to donate and consign items, which means we always have lots of stock,” said Jennifer Mahoney, Friends of Hospice executive director.
“Obviously, we can't put everything out so encourage shoppers to ask for specific items and or sizes as we may have what they are looking for. We also keep an ongoing list of items that people are looking for and as we secure the items, we reach out to them.
“We would love to see an increase in foot traffic, but we anticipate that will come with time and promotion.”
Ms Mahoney said this is a challenging time, with prices rising on a range of goods in Bermuda.
“Whether it be a thrift or consignment store or purchasing items via social media platforms, there's a definite interest in securing goods at below market cost,” she said.
The Bermuda Red Cross thrift shop Upstairs Closet on Berry Hill Road in Paget is a veteran in the business having been open 11 years.
Thrift shop manager Maria Duffy said they had seen a few new customers since the pandemic, but on the whole, they saw their usual, loyal following.
They sell only clothing and accessories.
“We have a huge selection of dresses that you might not find in town,” she said. “A lot of stores in town have closed.”
She said some of the items had been donated by people who bought clothing online, then did not fit into it, or the clothing was not what they expected.
“We end up with a lot of that,” she said.
The Upstairs Closet is open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9am to 3pm.