Nonprofits find surprising success by running secondhand stores
During Amy Wade-Carotenuto’s first stint as executive director of the Flagler Humane Society from 1990 to 2005, she and other volunteers used to have rummage sales to raise money for the organization. Five times per year, they’d go through the pain-staking process of finding a new location, getting the facility up-and-running and selling as many items as they could. They’d make $2,000 in a week — at best.
Nearly a decade ago, FHS opened its own thrift store near the shelter of U.S. 1 and did away with the rummage sales.
FHS celebrated the re-opening of their thrift store, the Flagler Humane Society Thrift Store, on Tuesday, July 17, which moved from its second location in St. Joe Plaza to 480 Palm Coast Parkway SW.
The thrift store has proven to be a vital part of the nonprofit organization.
“We do a lot more now than just take in stray animals. We definitely wouldn’t be able to provide the services we do now without the money the thrift store brings in.”
Wade-Carotenuto said the store has brought in roughly $16,000 to $23,000 per month, which she estimated to be about 30% of the organization’s total income.
The extra income from the store has allowed FHS to provide new services they wouldn’t otherwise offer. Those services include a pet food bank for owners who can’t afford pet food, low cost vaccines, low cost spay and neuter and allowing FHS to stay open seven days a week.
“Sometimes, you can’t even start certain projects unless you have some backing,” Wade-Carotenuto said. “It’s definitely a lot of work, and there’s costs that go into it, but it’s worth it.”
In addition to FHS’s store, several other thrift, secondhand or re-sale stores have opened their doors in the past year.
OPEN DOOR MINISTRIES
Pastor Charles Silano, of Grace Tabernacle Ministries, and his organization, Open Door Re-entry and Recovery Ministries — a Christian-based addiction recovery program — purchased Big John’s Quality Used Appliances in September 2017.
Although business is starting to pick up, Silano said the first few months of operation were difficult.
“It was rough because we didn’t really understand that there are seasons when business slows down,” Silano said of the store, which sells a variety of appliances, including washers, dryers, refrigerators and so on. “But since then, it’s been quite busy.”
Silano added that the store has been bringing in an average of $15,000 gross per month. Revenue first pays off expenses, which include rent and employee salary, and then the remainder goes to Open Door. However, Silano said that it’s still a little too early to tell if having the store will be an asset for the organization.
“We’re still in the beginning stages,” he said. “You have to be in business for about a year to really get a grip on it. But it’s being profitable, and we’re excited about it.”
CHRISTMAS COME TRUE
Nadine King, who officially moved her resale store, Christmas Come True, from Palm Coast to Bunnell on Wednesday, July 11, said that in addition to raising money, having the store also allows her to use it as an office for her organization as opposed to paying for an office building.
It helps her to focus on her goal: providing care to the community. Last year, Christmas Come True provided full Christmas dinners to 131 local families as well as toys and clothes to 381 children.
Having the store also helps her organization get exposure.
“People who didn’t know about me now know what I do,” she said. “We have the ability to talk to the community more because our doors are always open.”
ALPHA PREGNANCY CENTER
However, although using thrift stores as a means to raise money has proven effective, it shouldn’t be the only method of raising money, Alpha Pregnancy Center Manager Wilma Williams said.
The center uses money raised by Alpha’s Thrift Store to provide assistance to pregnant women and girls. Williams said about 25% of the organization’s income comes from the store.