Farmer File: Many thrift stores thrive on quality, quantity of sale items

DON FARMER
Don Farmer explains how he sees the GOP Presidential nomination race. The Caxambas Republican Club heard analysis of the Florida Presidential primary Wednesday from Don Farmer, and listened to pitches from two Congressional candidates. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Don Farmer explains how he sees the GOP Presidential nomination race. The Caxambas Republican Club heard analysis of the Florida Presidential primary Wednesday from Don Farmer, and listened to pitches from two Congressional candidates. Lance Shearer/Special to the Daily News

Here's a quick quiz to make a point about shopping for retail merchandise in Collier County:

In what kinds of stores would you expect to hear a manager say:

"We're almost the size of Home Depot."

"We have everything from pencils to cars."

"If they have it at Walmart, we have it here."

These are some of the responses we got in a mini-survey of some of the many "Thrift" stores and shops, outlets owned by charitable organizations that sell donated items at bargain prices.

One of the things these shop managers have in common is a pride in the quality of the goods they sell. Take furniture, for example.

Says Lisa Patron, manager of the Salvation Army store at 2313 Davis Blvd.:

"We get beautiful, upscale furniture at our big store on Davis. You would not think you are in a thrift store for sure."

At the Conservancy of Southwest Florida's thrift store, furniture sales are booming.

"A lot of Canadians and Europeans have gotten into the housing market because of the foreclosures," explains Marriet Daigle, general manager. "Now they are looking to refurnish. Some of the houses and condos had furniture that wasn't to their taste, so they donate that stuff or go to consignment, then redecorate in style.

"The nice thing is you can get quality furniture for half of what it was retail. Ninety percent of it is in excellent condition."

High-end designer clothing is on the racks at thrift shops now and then, such as Options Thrift Shoppe of the Shelter for Abused Women and Children.

"You may get items from Prada or Giorgio Armani for one-third of the retail price and it looks brand new," says Options representative Mary Ann Green.

Variety seems a key to thrift shops' success. That and the fact that a lot of affluent people live here, with nice things to donate that other people can buy. And there's another factor in play.

"We have a lot of people who are moving from houses to condos, to assisted living, and some people who have passed away," says Cameron Johnson, manager of the White Elephant, NCH Hospital's thrift shop.

"The children of those elderly people come down and want to get rid of everything in the house and donate to us. So, we have everything from pencils to cars. Its like a warehouse, close to the size of Home Depot, 30,000 square feet, so we can put a lot of stuff out."

The Bonita Lions Club Thrift Store manager, Marge Shivel, uses the phrase, "Soup to nuts," to describe her inventory.

"We have a large warehouse facility, so if they have it at Walmart, we have it here," Shivel says.

She also says that store stays busy all year: "I can't tell any difference between a good or bad economy."

Others in the thrift business can, including Kirsten O'Donnell, public relations executive for the 26 Goodwill stores in the five county metro area.

"For the average retailer, the holiday season means a lot of purchases and we look forward to that," she says.

"But it's also the biggest donation time of the year because people need to donate by Dec. 31 to get the tax write-off for the year. The week between Christmas and New Year's is often one of our busiest weeks. People come to donate and then purchase items from the store."

At the three thrifts of St. Matthews "House of Treasures," Development Director Carrie Sparks says, "It's been a great season. We're busy all year but the season is good for us, with at least five trucks picking up goods every day for our stores."

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