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Thrift store to reopen for 3-day sale; coffee shop, art gallery in the works

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/7/18

Armed with cans of bright orange and blue paint, volunteers gathered at the Interfaith Senior Service Thrift Shop on Monday to prepare the store for an upcoming three-day sale to clear the remaining …

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Thrift store to reopen for 3-day sale; coffee shop, art gallery in the works

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Armed with cans of bright orange and blue paint, volunteers gathered at the Interfaith Senior Service Thrift Shop on Monday to prepare the store for an upcoming three-day sale to clear the remaining merchandise and raise money to help renovate the store into a combined coffee shop, thrift store and community space.

Among the volunteers were eighth-graders Tyler Ditzler and Ayden Harper, who decided to help out in part because they were excited to paint the sale signs on the front window and in part because they love the store.

“I wanted to help out. I used to come here all the time,” Ditzler said.

The thrift store will temporarily reopen for a three-day sale from Feb. 17-19. On Feb. 17, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Feb. 18, the store will be open from noon to 5 p.m. On Feb. 19, the store will be open from 10 a.m. to  5 p.m.

“I find it really inspiring how much this space means to the community,” Interfaith Housing Board President Ellen Willenbecher said.

The thrift shop, which is owned and run by the nonprofit organization Interfaith, was closed in October. At the time of its closing, Willenbecher told the Press & Journal that the store wasn’t bringing in enough money to support its operation. On Monday, she added that the Interfaith board concluded that there was more potential for the space than having the thrift shop occupy the entire 5,200 square foot space.

Since its closing, Willenbecher said the board has been working on a vision to renew the store. “We know the building deserves some repairs and renovations,” she said.

Interfaith plans to divide the space into three parts — a coffee shop, a thrift store and a community space/art gallery.

“If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, ‘Boy, don’t you think we should have a coffee shop in Middletown?’ I could repair and renovate this building with no problem,” Willenbecher said.

The front of the store likely will be divided into a coffee shop/thrift store. Willenbecher said the back would be used for an “incubator” space.

Local artists could display their work, Penn State professors could lead discussions with community members, local organizations could gather and students could watch movies on a projected screen.

“We’ve had a lot of good ideas from folks in town. We’re open to whatever people want it to be,” Willenbecher said.

That’s not the only potential change to the thrift store. Willenbecher said the shop will have a new name as well. Recently, Interfaith members were working with Penn State graduate students on a website for the space.

“We were rolling around that the place needs a new name. It’s not just the thrift shop,” she said. The group came up with the name “17 South” after the shop’s address on Union Street where it has been housed since 1991. 

“To prepare for working on the building, we really do need to clear out the inventory and earn some money towards the repairs and renovations of the building,” Willenbecher said.

Enter the three-day sale. According to Willenbecher, all of the thrift store’s inventory is on the racks. Customers can take a bag, and whatever fits in costs $7.

“And you can take more than one bag,” she added.

Any leftover merchandise will be donated to other local organizations.

Interfaith hopes to reopen the space this year. Willenbecher said that before the space reopens, the board has to examine the list of proposed renovations and repairs and the budget for the project. Interfaith is working with local contractor Herb Moore to compile the list.