A thrift shop that supports a downtown homeless shelter run by Open House Ministries has expanded to include a new antique and vintage room. The growing retail operations, which occupy the upper story of Second Hand Solutions Thrift Store, 915 W. 13th St., will also provide job training for residents.
Store manager Julie Murray said people often donate antiques to the store, and the nonprofit is left with estates. The ground-floor thrift store and Common Grounds coffee shop can get crowded with merchandise, which is also stored in the basement.
“We really just needed to have more areas to sell in,” she said.
About 100 to 150 customers come through every day. Some customers, who weren’t familiar with the value of antiques or vintage pieces, were confused about why these items cost more than others.
Murray said an antique is 100 years or older, while a vintage item is at least 20 years old. The new upstairs annex sells items such as china, jewelry, suitcases, antique furniture, original paintings and collectibles; one donor dropped off a roll-top desk from the 1800s, Murray said. A separate space for those special items made sense, and Murray said it’s drawn the attention of local antique dealers.
“We still have antiques at thrift store pricing,” she said.
Previously, the room was a meeting space for teens and used only a handful of hours every week. As customers walk up the stairs to the shop, there’s a display of antique trains and train paintings, which harken back to the building’s original use as a railroad house. Other rooms upstairs are used as offices and apartments.
Second Hand Solutions Thrift Store
• Where: 915 W. 13th St., Vancouver.
• When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday; also, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. every first Friday of the month.
• What: Clothing, household goods, furniture and antiques. Donations are tax-deductible.
• Website: sheltered.org
Murray, who joined Open House four years ago, has a background in antiquing. Residents working in the antique shop get job training, so they can determine what’s vintage, what’s antique, and what’s an original or a copy.
“They’re learning all those skills that they could take with them,” Murray said. “I really think that an important part of ending homelessness is being able to learn important skills and knowing what to do when you get in the workforce.”
Some residents have previous work experience; others don’t or may have gaps in their employment.
Currently, nine residents take shifts at one of the arms of the thrift store, whether it’s the clothing annex, the main thrift store, the coffee shop or the new antique room. They work alongside volunteers. There’s also a bike shop in the same building. Murray said every $19 spent at one of these stores covers a night in the shelter for someone. About 100 people stay in the shelter each night, and 50 to 60 percent of them are children, said Judy McMorine, development director at Open House.
Murray is considering adding a boutique shop, possibly upstairs, that would feature higher-end gowns and wedding dresses. Prom dresses are sold for $20 at the clothing annex.
The shelter’s retail arm has grown since its inception and has become an integral part of the programming, McMorine said.
“One of the things we emphasize at the shelter is that we want families to become self-sufficient and learn how to manage themselves as a family unit,” she said.
Some families learn basic time management skills, such as getting their children to the school bus and getting to work on time, in addition to their class commitments at the shelter.
“It goes beyond job coaching. It’s like life coaching,” McMorine said.
Residents also get vouchers to shop the stores and are given furniture when they graduate from the shelter program and move out.
The thrift store relies entirely on donations and has received several original paintings. To help move the artwork, the store joined the First Friday Artwalk two months ago. A couple of weeks before the first artwalk, somebody donated two art easels and an original painting. Six pieces were sold in the first half hour of the first artwalk.
“We get a lot of those little blessings,” Murray said.
For next month’s artwalk on May 6, the store will display donated pieces along with photography done by clothing annex supervisor Holly Roderick. The store will be open 5 to 9 p.m. and feature live music.