Betsy Cote’ may be slight of build, but she has large responsibilities at the busy Thrift Shop of the Estuary Council in Old Saybrook. The Council’s building is located at 210 Main Street, way in the back of the shopping plaza. The Thrift Shop is on the first floor of the Council building.
Working under Cote’ at the Thrift Shop are 70 volunteers, who work in shifts at the check-out counter and around the store helping others. There are always at least three of the volunteer staff members on the floor, when the shop is open. By far most of the volunteers are women, although there is a sprinkle of males.
Donations, which come into the Thrift Shop, are first sorted by item. The shop accepts donations of house wear, plates, cups and saucers, silver wear and clothing. When Cote’ was asked to give her definition of house wear, she said, “Anything in the house.”
No Electrical Items Accepted
However, if you have to plug in your donation, be advised the Thrift Shop does not accept electrical items. The most popular item at the Thrift Shop, according to Cote’, is puzzles. At the shop the puzzles for sale range in size from 1,000 pieces down to 300 pieces. Most popular are 500 piece puzzles, and like the rest, “they go fast,” says Cote’.
Also, balls of yarn are a popular item among Thrift Shop shoppers, as is the sewing area, which offers a plethora of buttons in jars, and even a collection of zippers. On hand as well are place mats, napkins, washcloths and towels. There are sheets as well of various sizes.
The motto of the Thrift Shop is, “If you would not buy it, we would not sell it,” Cote’ says. She, herself, is the only paid employee at the Thrift Shop, at a modest salary.
“Everything is really going great here,” Cote’ says. As for the Thrift Shop, “It is very successful.”
One thing that Thrift Shop customers should realize is that, the Thrift Shop does not wash or dry clean any of the items that come in as donations and are for sale. Cleaning is left up to the customer, who purchased the item.
“Wacky Wednesdays” for Super Bargains
One thing that brings in lots of customers is “Wacky Wednesday” specials. Kept a secret until the day of the event, on a recent Wednesday all articles of clothing were half price.
The Estuary Council’s Thrift Shop is open on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., and Saturdays it is open from 9:00 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. The shop is closed on Sundays.
Volunteers at the shop on weekdays work in two shifts, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and 1:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. All are volunteers.
Cote’ tells the story that once someone donated, literally, a truck load of sheets, and the Thrift Shop sold them all. Customers made table cloths out of the sheets, lining for draperies, and some even made skirts out of the sheets.
Cote’ stressed that that they try to keep the Thrift Shop “neat and clean.” She also says that it is “a fun place to work,” and that “you meet great people.”
As for shop-lifting at the Thrift Shop, it may happen in very rare cases. As for the volunteers at the checkout counter, Coty’ says that she never once doubted their honesty.