Lots of good with little knick-knacks: Thrift stores growing
Published 12:10 am Sunday, November 30, 2014
NATCHEZ — Used goods can go a long way to helping a good cause.
A little more than a year after Paws for a Cause — the non-profit thrift store that benefits the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society — opened, it’s managed to raise more than $20,000 for the organization.
“I started the store on a whim, but it took off a lot more than I ever expected,” store founder Jana Ros said.
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The thrift shop first opened at the former Trade Winds Consignory location on Seargent S. Prentiss Drive in October 2013.
But halfway through the year the amount of donations and volume of business demanded a second, larger location behind Kaiser’s on U.S. 61 South.
The larger shop offers furniture, which the smaller building did not have space to hold. The shops offer clothes, shoes, handbags, kitchenware, dishes, toys, knickknacks and books, among other items.
“When we started, I thought, ‘If we can make anything, that is better than nothing,’” Ros said. “Now we have two buildings — it is just insane.”
The average customer at the store just wants to browse, said Susan Callon, who helps oversee both of the volunteer-staffed shops.
“People now days are on a budget and they want to find good used things to fit that budget, and we have the best things in Natchez at the best prices,” she said.
“And most of the time, they are animal lovers. The majority of the people who come in are big animals lovers and they will do anything to help the animals.”
Callon said the stores have developed a loyal customer base in the relatively short time they’ve been open.
“We have made very good friends with the people who come in,” Callon said. “We love the people who come in the stores. Some people come in the morning, then at noon and then (again) in the evening.”
But those repeat customers are helping recruit other repeat customers, Ros said.
“We don’t have a lot of money for advertising, but week in and week out we have the same customers, and they go and tell their friends, word-of-mouth spreads and those friends become loyal customers,” she said.
“Word-of-mouth has been phenomenal, and in a town like Natchez that is a big thing.”
The success is likewise attributable to the good will of area residents, Ros said.
“The citizens of Natchez have been phenomenal,” she said. “They have donated and donated and donated — I am going through mounds of clothes.”
Since Paws for a Cause has a low overhead — power, rent and water bills still apply, but no employee costs — they’re able to realize almost all of the proceeds from thrift sales.
“It is unreal how 50 cents here and 50 cents there adds up,” Ross said. “People don’t think they have that much to give, but this year those small amounts are what has made this money.”
In addition to needing donations of goods to sell, Ros said the store needs donations of plastic bags from retail stores to send their goods home with customers and old newspapers for wrapping breakables.
Donations can be made at either location in the donation boxes out front.
Callon said while she’s glad to have enough donations and business to support the two locations, she hopes to be able to move the two shops into a unified location at some point in the future.
“If we can find a good building on the highway, we might buy it,” she said.
Paws for a Cause isn’t the only non-profit thrift shop in the area area experiencing growth.
St. Andrew’s Thrift Shop opened a Vidalia location earlier this year, but had to close its Natchez store in the Belmont shopping center because it was slated for demolition.
Even with only one store in Vidalia now, St. Andrew’s is experiencing a higher level of business, manager Shelbi Kimball said.
“Vidalia is a better location, right on the highway,” she said. “We had to stretch employees trying to keep stuff out in both stores, but we are fully stocked out with a completely full store, donations have been great and we are a lot busier over here.”
Kimball said St. Andrews is still looking to reopen a Natchez location, but hasn’t been able to find a suitably sized space yet.
Donations to St. Andrews’ can be made at the rear of the store’s Carter Street location.