What enables a small town, non-profit thrift shop to ring up $100,000 in sales in its first seven months of operation at a new location? What brings more than 10,000 shoppers through the doors during that same time?
This is the wondrous story of the Treasure House, operated by the Parish Church of St. Helena in Beaufort.
The keys to this success story?
Could be the new location at Boundary and Charles streets on the edge of downtown, a clean, well-lighted space with ample parking and a dedicated entrance for donations.
Could be the 49 volunteers, most from St. Helena’s but not all, including some students and parents from the shop’s top beneficiary, Holy Trinity Classical Christian School.
Could be the manager, Sandy Foster, who has a heart for people, a head for business, a soul for the Lord and a gift for making every person who enters the Treasure House feel special and loved. Compassion and hospitality head her list of priorities.
Could be all this and more, but anyone who spends any time at the Treasure House will tell you the answer is simple: it’s the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit brought the spark of the idea of a thrift shop to Roz Dixon, Patty O’Leary and some other St. Helena’s women back in 2012 or so, and they opened the Mission Treasure House in an out-of-the-way shopping center on August 3, 2013. Three years later, the Spirit was with Stellena Mumma the day she drove over the downtown bridge and realized 203 Carteret Street was available for rent. It was the perfect place to move the shop to, and Gordon Mabie opened the renamed 2or3 Treasure House downtown on June 1, 2016.
Then in December 2018, Treasure House volunteer Sandy Foster visited the Boys and Girls Club Thrift Shop at 914 Boundary Street which was closing and had fixtures available. She noticed the large open space inside and ample parking outside, and as she got back into her car a voice said, “Call Todd” – twice. Todd is the Rev. Todd Simonis, St. Helena’s clergy assigned to shepherd the Treasure House—and she had no doubt whose voice she’d heard. Just weeks before they were to sign a lease renewal for 2or3 at a greatly increased rent, agreement was reached to make 914 Boundary the new address of the Treasure House. Following a colossal outpouring of volunteer labor and contributions from church, school and community, the Treasure House opened at the Boundary Street site on February 15 of this year.
Three locations and three different names in five years, each change brought renewed growth and success to a thrift shop that is so much more.
The Holy Spirit still is in daily attendance. It has happened at least once to every Treasure House volunteer: the recycling bins are overflowing and the volunteer who removes them walks in without being called; a heavy piece of furniture needs to be moved and the next person through the door is a college football player on summer vacation; a customer needs a bed and one was donated that morning; the front yard needs maintenance and a volunteer takes it on as his personal ministry. Just recently a young woman rushed through the door to ask if we had a wedding dress in size 12—she needed it that week. We had one; it fit her perfectly; it cost $40. Her prayers were answered.
Donations come from everywhere. One man drives his and his neighbors’ things 30 minutes from Bluffton because he likes the way the Treasure House operates. The most unusual item to date—a pig pregnancy test still in the box with the notation “probe missing.” Volunteers put it in the Man Cave, and it sold in two hours to a man looking for a gag gift for his friend’s birthday party! The shop accepts most items; notable exceptions are electronics and prescription drugs. Furniture and other large items are okay if the donors can get them to the shop.
Prayer remains a constant throughout the business day. A credenza displays free Bibles and offers sticky notes for special prayer requests. Spontaneous prayer is offered when someone needs it, and shoppers often join the prayer circle.
Many volunteers and the manager are lifelong Beaufortonians so “Beaufort connections” abound. A retired painter offered a rock-bottom price for painting the inside. He lives near Holy Trinity and said he wanted to help because the students are “smart and polite and look you in the eye when you speak to them.”
A recent windfall came from a Charleston connection. Beth Snyder, assistant to Bishop Mark Lawrence, found out about Treasure House from the bishop’s wife, Allison, who is a faithful Treasure House shopper. So when the Snyders decided to clear out their river cottage in Okatie, Beth insisted that everything go to the Treasure House.
Half the Treasure House profits go to Holy Trinity Classical Christian School, the other half to local charities as determined by the Treasure House board. The shop is a 501(c)(3) non-profit allowing donors to deduct the value of donations from their income tax.
The staff makes an effort to display only quality merchandise—nothing ripped, stained or with a button missing. Prices are standardized, and a boutique area features high-quality clothing at slightly higher prices. Pop-up sales keep merchandise moving. Partnerships with local charities provide destinations for lesser quality merchandise, and two local consignment shops bring their expired items to the Treasure House. Circle of Hope, the local homeless shelter, gets gently used outerwear and all sleeping bags.
Besides clothing, shop offerings include housewares, art, jewelry, books, linens, some furniture, home décor and toys. The Man Cave houses CDs and DVDs, sporting goods, luggage and do-it-yourself gadgets. There’s even a space for gently used Holy Trinity uniforms. Students can swap their outgrown items for larger ones. (Moms and older students maintain the area).
“The complexion of thrifting has changed,” Foster says. “It used to be just finding some special bargain; now people are doing it to be fiscally responsible.”
Shoppers range from nearby neighbors to visitors from all over the U.S. They’re encouraged to tell their stories and often find unusual things in common. Volunteers form friendships too, often meeting people they wouldn’t otherwise. “Our volunteers are like a little family,” Foster notes. Not all volunteers are from St. Helena’s, and at least one longtime volunteer is a non-believer, yet they all tell Foster they feel the love and compassion in the Treasure House (and she hopes maybe as time goes by it will bring them closer to God).
What makes the Treasure House such a success? An old hymn by Doris Akers tells it best:
“There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord… Sweet Holy Spirit, Sweet Heavenly Dove, stay right here with us, filling us with your love. And for these blessings we lift our hearts in praise; without a doubt we’ll know that we have been revived when we shall leave this place.”
Treasure House Thrift & More is located at 914 Boundary Street, Beaufort, SC 29902, and is open Monday through Friday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm; Saturdays 10:00 am to 1:30pm; and closed on Sundays. They may be reached by phone at (843) 525-0058 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Treasure House Thrift & More on Facebook.
By Marge Barber,Treasure House volunteer, The Parish Church of St. Helena’s, Beaufort
(Image by Marge Barber)