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St. Andrew’s Thrift Store opens branch in Vidalia

Thomas Graning | The Natchez Democrat Store manager Shelbi Kimball polishes a shoe to be sold at St. Andrew’s Thrift Store in Vidalia Thursday. The store opened in Vidalia five weeks ago.
THOMAS GRANING/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Store manager Shelbi Kimball polishes a shoe to be sold at St. Andrew’s Thrift Store in Vidalia Thursday. The store opened in Vidalia five weeks ago.

By Chase Ladner/The Natchez Democrat

VIDALIA — When Shelbi Kimball’s six children were going through school, she would refurbish their shoes so they would look like new.

Now, Kimball is sharing her talents with the people of Vidalia by operating the new St. Andrew’s Mission Thrift Store.

“I’ve been there in the hard times,” Kimball said. “And I know what people look for to get through.”

The thrift store is a branch of St. Andrew’s Mission, a church in McComb that provides a variety of community services.

The store in Vidalia has been open for five weeks at 1617 Carter St., and is an extension of the St. Andrew’s Mission Thrift Store in Natchez.

The stores operate entirely from donations. A combination of employees and volunteers work to clean and repair donated items to be as close to retail quality as possible.

The Vidalia and Natchez stores share donations, merchandise and the workload among six regular employees.

Kimball said she got into the thrift business after volunteering at the Natchez St. Andrew’s thrift shop when she quit her job of fixing shoes professionally with her ex-husband.

Once a managerial position opened up at the Natchez store, Kimball applied and was hired.

Kimball said she sees herself as just another worker with added responsibilities.

“The prices in this economy are so high,” said Cheryl Mullins, Kimball’s mother and the assistant manager of the two stores. “There are so many needy people out there.”

Essentials such as clothes, shoes and underwear are sold for $2 to $5, Mullins said.

The store also has items such as boots and cowboy hats that often sell between $5 or $10.

Prices can be kept low, and the items stay varied, because of a constant influx of donations.

The Vidalia store has trash bags full of donations stacked to the ceiling against the backroom of the store. Mullins said the storage-unit size storage room was filled almost to the door the previous month when they opened.

“There is no way I could have done this without workers,” Kimball said. “A lot of the time the doors are closed, and they are still working. I can’t express how proud I am of them.”

Clothes that are not kept to sell at the store are sent overseas to poorer countries through different mission groups, Kimball said.

“We don’t waste anything,” Kimball said.

Everything in the front of the store is from donations, including the decorations. Mullins and Kimball said they wanted the store to be inviting.

“God has blessed us with everything we need,” Mullins said.

The Miss-Lou St. Andrew’s staff has ambitions for further growth around Natchez and Vidalia.

The next goal is to move the Natchez store from its location on U.S. 61 South to an area that is more convenient to the people of Natchez, Mullins said.

Other St. Andrew’s Mission programs — such as a free healthcare clinic or youth counseling center — could be options in the Miss-Lou in the future, Kimball said.

All the money made from the sales either goes to employee salaries, supporting mission activities or other St. Andrew’s programs in other areas.