The YMCA Thrift Shop has quickly become known as the place to purchase second-hand merchandise in decent condition at low prices.
The shop opened last August after space became available on the YMCA’s property. The location was previously leased to another organization; however, the agreement did not work out.
YMCA Thrift Shop Manager Christine Gardner explained that the lease agreement ended in June 2021.
Gardner, who is a member of the YMCA’s Board of Directors, initially brought together volunteers from the American Women’s (she was president at the time) and Canadian Women’s clubs to volunteer and donate items to start the store.
“All of the volunteers that assisted with the previous organization’s project stayed on and when the shop space became available, we decided to open a store that will benefit the ‘Y’,” she said.
“Everyone got on the bandwagon, collecting donations from people in the community that we’ve interacted with for years and giving donations themselves.”
Items donated included men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, electronic items, toys, games, houseware, footware, books, DVDs, CDs, paintings and more.
For Gardner and the four other volunteers who manage the shop, which is open Thursday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., it was a lot of work.
But, she added, they made it exciting.
“We had some fun naming areas of the store,” Gardner said.
“It is just one huge, open space, so we put the items in sections.
“We have the children’s section; the extra large section; the shoe department; the specials section; the electronics section; the entertainment area; and the pharmacy department. Customers can get hair care products, skin care items and even a sweet scent.
“Our prices are very reasonable. We have stylish jeans, two for $1; books, four for $1 … We do not put out anything unless it is viable,” Gardner said.
“The items must be clean, nice and suitable for purchase.”
The shop also features a jewelry showcase and paintings donated by local artists.
“We have two artists who donated their work for a bit of advertising,” Gardner said.
“When their paintings are sold, all the proceeds go to the YMCA. However, we identify them in the event the buyers want to purchase additional work from them.”
The shop also boasts of a stock room where newly donated items are kept and inspected before being placed on the racks for sale.
“We have donors bringing in items almost daily,” said Gardner, pointing to several stacked bags in the room.
“We have everything from dressy ladies’ clothing, formals, to trendy party outfits … I can’t wait until the theater is back up and going for us to put out the gowns that we’ve gotten.” (The Regency Theatre is undergoing renovations and repairs after damage from Hurricane Dorian.)
For Gardner, providing decent, inexpensive products for their clients is essential.
Austin Major, 25, was scanning the men’s clothing section when Grand Bahama News visited the store.
Major, to his delight, found a tan knit winter coat. At the register, Gardner told the young man his jacket would cost $20.
“Twenty dollars?” asked Major. “I was expecting to pay more.”
Asked why he shopped at the second-hand store, Major replied, “Some people really take care of their clothes when they buy them. People sometimes only wear things once and put it in the back of their closets. When shopping, I usually do a thorough inspection of the items and this is one of them that was well kept. More importantly, the price is right.”
Gardner happily folded and presented Major with his purchase.
Serena Moree purchased a pair of soft women’s shoes which she wore out of the store.
“I tried them on and they were so comfortable. I just didn’t take them off,” she said.
“I enjoy coming here because I can find the odd knick-knack for my hobbies, for a little freshening up of the room in the house and little fun things like my shoes.”
Gardner said there are items that some people could not buy at the original price, but having them at the store and in pristine condition at a low cost, is a service they are happy to provide.
In its first five months, the store’s earnings were great, according to Gardner.
“The economy saw an uptick,” she said.
“We did very well in the store. For the first time, the YMCA, through the funds made in the thrift shop, was able to see a small margin of profitability.”
For the volunteers, that was excellent news.
“Being a part of the board, I know every year we’ve been in the red, despite the donations that were coming in. So, to have the shop make such an impact was tremendous,” Gardner said.
The YMCA, a vision of the late Sir Jack Hayward (former vice president of the Grand Bahama Port Authority), was built in 1970 and was largely supported by corporate citizens and civic groups.
Over the years, with the decline in Grand Bahama’s economy, successive hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a decrease in donations.
“Had it not been for the thrift shop, I don’t know what we would have done in terms of keeping our doors open,” said YMCA Executive Director Karon Pinder-Johnson.
The financial support from the second-hand store assists with the upkeep of the YMCA programs – tennis, soccer, boxing, archery, swimming and after-school – which the organization offers.