WHIDBEY ISLAND — It’s the go-to spot for books, wine glasses and knickknacks for cheap.
Good Cheer Thrift Stores are an island attraction for locals and tourists.
The nonprofit runs two Good Cheer stores and a food bank.
The roomy store in the plaza at Ken’s Korner Shopping Center in Clinton has oodles of stuff and is set up like a traditional secondhand shop.
The Langley site melds with the backdrop of the artsy downtown, holding its own against boutiques.
Stroll the tidy aisles. Find surprises in a $1 grab bag for girls or boys. Score a hammer for $2.
“The thrift stores are more than just thrift stores to us,” said Carol Squire, the organization’s director. “It funds our food bank, which is a huge thing. Although we also get donations, 80 percent of our operating costs are covered by revenues from the thrift stores. So we are not overly dependent on donations just for the food. We also have an organic garden.”
Good Cheer was started in 1962 by a small group of friends wanting to help those in need during the holidays. According to the website, in 1964, the group held its first fund drive and made $61.60. Last year, Good Cheer distributed 778,913 pounds of food.
The food bank serves about 850 families a month. The stores serve multiple purposes.
“We give away things to people who need it,” Squire said. This might be outfitting children at the start of the school year or families displaced by a fire.
In December, kids in food bank households get a voucher for $20 and a personal shopper to select and wrap presents for family members.
“The thrift stores are at the heart of our feeling that we give to the community and that the community gives to us,” Squire said. “People bring us the things they don’t need anymore. We recycle things through the thrift stores that don’t have to end up in the landfill.”
The distribution center donations are divvied between the two stores based on need and space. The larger Clinton store has more furniture and appliances.
Prices are set on many items. Look at the price board on the wall for how few dollars that must-have item will set you back.
Belts are $2, blouses $3, blazers $4. The sign continues through the alphabet of goods. Hats are $2 … purses $4. It ends with vests for $3.
Squire said certain designer items are priced more.
“If a pair of pants is worth $100 new and in perfect condition, instead of selling it for $4 we’ll sell it for $12,” she said. “We get a lot of people who are higher-end shoppers and they are willing to pay for these things. So when people donate it, they know we are really making use of their donations and getting more money for the food bank.”
It’s nearly impossible to walk out of a Good Cheer store without buying something, even if it’s only a new greeting card with the envelope for only a quarter or a rootin’-tootin’ Santa mug for $1.
“Last week I got a big room divider for $11,” said Megan LeMay, who lives across the street from the Langley store.
“Today I got a dress and some tights and a candleholder,” she said. “The clothing selection is the big thing for me. I always know I’m not going to get something that has a stain I didn’t see or a rip in the back I didn’t realize was there.”
Another shopper nabbed a vinyl troll house with molded furniture from the 1960s with rubber figures in felt clothes: $3. Priceless, if you were a kid growing up in the ‘60s.
Each store has a core staff and a crew of volunteers.
Verna Lawsen, a volunteer for more than 10 years at the Langley store, has a background in collectible decor.
She told about the time she found a buyer willing to pay more for a vase that was priced too low at $35.
“I sold it for $300,” she said. “Plus tax.”
Good Cheer Thrift Store, 114 Anthes Ave., Langley; 360-221-6455. Good Cheer Two Thrift Store, 11042 Highway 525, Clinton; 360-341-2880. More at www.goodcheer.org.