On a brisk fall day in late October, Sarah Schechter and her daughter stood just inside the front door of Hangers to Hutches and chatted with the thrift store’s friendly female staff.
“This is just the best store,” Schechter said. “I love it.”
She was flipping a black bolero in her hands, weighing whether to purchase the $45 hat with a 20-percent discount coupon she received by donating to the nonprofit program.
“This is a very nice place and they have very quality stuff,” she said. “It’s a store to be reckoned with.”
Hangers to Hutches opened its doors in June 2009 to provide nonprofit Tri-Lakes Cares with the resources and revenue necessary to assist its needy clients. Back then, the store was known simply as Hangers and mostly carried lightly used women’s clothing, along with a small selection of housewares and bric-a-brac.
In 2013, the store relocated to 245 Jefferson St. in downtown Monument, changed its name to Hangers to Hutches, and began offering a wider variety of goods sourced through local donors.
A sign on the building’s façade characterizes the store, as well as the quality of its merchandise: “Experience our boutique flair at thrift shop pricing!”
To maintain that kind of quality, each donated item is put through a rigorous quality control process. Volunteers sort each item depending on category, examine it for imperfections and price it by hand.
As long as the store is open, a few of its 75 volunteers pledge their time to ease the flow of the nonprofit’s operations.
“We love our volunteers,” said Cara Vanderkolk, manager of the store. “We don’t pay much, but we give lots of hugs.”
The items that pass inspection are then placed in queue to hit the showroom floor; others wait in the wings for pickup by a variety of local nonprofits.
Because some items may be rare or valuable, the store’s staff and volunteers often refer to Internet resources to research the value of items and then price them at around 65-75 percent of their worth.
Expensive items such as jewelry and valuable antiques are also often appraised by local dealers and businesses such as Purple Mountain Jewelry, Vanderkolk said.
She said the most valuable piece the store has sold was a 19th-century French armoire valued at $1,800 that sold to an Indiana woman for $960. Most recently, an area family donated a pair of large, polished opals with a total value around $20,000. Vanderkolk said they would likely be placed on consignment at Purple Mountain.
But it’s not the money that keeps Vanderkolk and her four full-time co-workers going to work each morning — it’s their mission to serve the community.
“I’ve always been one that wanted to give back to the community in which I live,” she said. “Over the course of the past 31 years, Tri-Lakes Cares has grown into an organization that really services this community in a way that nobody else does.”
“This is a very nice place and they have very quality stuff. It’s a store to be reckoned with.”
– Sarah Schechter
That has given Hangers to Hutches the opportunity to help a variety of those in need. During the Black Forest fire of 2013, Vanderkolk said the store donated $68,000 in goods to its nonprofit arm and worked with Red Cross to connect Tri-Lakes Cares to other community resources.
“We were giving people blankets … boots so that they could walk through the soot,” she said. “It’s just a really cool thing to be able to operate that way.”
During fiscal year 2014, the store contributed $104,000 to its parent nonprofit, and Vanderkolk said this year’s ambition is even higher. The team is also working with a Realtor who is looking for space in which the store can grow.
“We need to grow now, because there is not enough space to keep everything on the floor,” she said. “There are some days where we might have to pull something off the floor to put something better on the floor. That’s not a healthy place to be, so we’ve got to do something to make it better.”
Vanderkolk hopes to double the size of the store, from 2,400 square feet to around 5,000 square feet, so that they might be able to do their job more effectively — and help the community.
“We need to do more to help.”
Hangers to Hutches
Location: 245 Jefferson St., Monument