Time worth celebrating as Care Closet nears $1 million in sales

A quarter century is time worth celebrating for customers and staff at The Care Closet in downtown Penticton.

Alison Cosgrove

A quarter century is time worth celebrating for customers and staff at The Care Closet in downtown Penticton.

The thrift store – jointly operated by the Penticton Hospital Auxiliary, Penticton & District Hospice Society and the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation – marks its 25th anniversary on July 23.

Cake and refreshments will be served, along with in-store specials from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 574 Main St.

The Care Closet averages about 100 customers a day. Since 2004, total sales have topped $936,000.

In 2014, it rang up over $145,000 in annual sales which generated $75,000 in revenue distributions to be split evenly between the three partner organizations. Each of the partners gained a record $11,800 in net revenue for the first quarter of 2015 alone.

The shop has two paid staff members and about 50 volunteers. Each volunteer works a three-and-a-half hour shift per week. Its board of directors includes two representatives from each of the three partner organizations.

Patti Skinner, a Hospice Society director, said The Care Closet’s roots date back to the 1980s when it was located in the basement of hospice volunteer Della Volden’s home.

“Well, it took off. It outgrew her basement, her garage, and then she couldn’t manage,” Skinner recalled. “That’s when the Foundation was established 25 years ago. They moved The Care Closet to a storefront on Nanaimo Avenue for a year, before coming here (to the current Main Street location).”

Skinner added that the name “The Care Closet” was suggested by Holger Gruenberg, who won a public naming contest when the thrift store opened under its present partnership.

Store manager Alison Cosgrove credits good prices, strong support from the community and good quality as the secrets to The Care Closet’s success.

The store accepts all kinds of gently used clothing, linen, small household items and jewelry. Residents throughout the area bring in quality items to donate.

“A lot of people want it to come to us because they have recently lost someone in the hospital, hospice or wherever,” she said. “People do bring us really nice things. We have fabulous stuff – from Africa and all over the world – that people donate.”

Customer interest is particularly keen on the day after the twice-yearly seasonal changeovers in April and September, when staff clear out the existing stock and bring in the new season’s offerings.

“It’s a line-up. It’s insanity,” Cosgrove said. “We’d spend so much time and energy into putting the store beautifully together. It looks like a department store.”

“Then it’s just wiped out,” she added with a chuckle.

Sales of up to $3,500 have been recorded on the day following a merchandise changeover.

The social aspect is also important for many customers and staff. Skinner noted many of the volunteers get attached to their customers and miss them if they don’t show up for a while.

“It’s not just about shopping,” she said. “It’s super social too.”

The Care Closet is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

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