For several years, a small group of community women hauled donated items home to clean or test, before returning these same items to storage units for rummage sales benefiting animal rescue groups.
A laborious, tiring and taxing system, to say the least. So when the ideal location popped up along Highway 41, the women jumped at the chance to operate differently.
The All Fur Love Thrift Store opened in Oakhurst a couple of weeks ago. The walls are covered with positive affirmations, such as: What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly? and In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.
The business is off to a brisk start, and so far, first-time customers have nothing but praise.
Shoppers Kelly Stansell and Julia Telian had a couple of hours to kill in town, so hitting thrift stores seemed the perfect activity last week.
“I liked this shop the moment I walked in,” Stansell said. “It smells like clean laundry, and that’s a huge plus.”
Bliss Hoagland was elated to find pants that would fit her growing boys, ages 11 and 12.
“There are no thrift stores in town that carry clothing for them,” Hoagland explained, “and I found four pairs of pants here. Everything is easy to find, it’s very organized, and the prices are great.”
Even the younger shoppers enjoyed browsing - shoppers like Serenity Ferguson, 4, who hoped the toy dog she pulled on a leash would be coming home with her as a playmate for herself, and her dog, Dexter.
“The community support has been much better than I could have ever dreamed of,” sole proprietor Keri Hills said, “and we are so thankful for that. We will try this for a year, and then we’ll see if we come out okay, or if it would be better to shut the doors.”
The first business goal is to repay the start-up costs ($7,000), followed by keeping up with the monthly overhead ($2,000). Once that is managed, Hills plans on pursuing a non-profit status - a pricey process. Another priority on Hills’ wish list is paying volunteers for half their time.
Anything collected above that will go to animal rescue groups. To further aid in the cause, photos of adoptable animals will be on display, and adoption events and bake sales will be held. Over the last few years, money has been raised for Kellen Rescue, EMC SPCA, Doc’s Dogs for Vets, and the Catnip Society.
“When I moved up to the mountains in 2000, I became involved and saw how hard it is to maintain an animal rescue group,” Hills continued. “There are very few volunteers, even less money being donated, and I thought it was such a sad situation.
“One rescue group - Kellen Rescue - does fantastic work, but it is mainly done by the owner, Ellen Faux, who works her butt off from dawn until late at night, trying to find good, safe homes for all the animals,” Hills said. “There is not a lot of community involvement, which is sad as there are so many animals in this area that need our help. So I started doing rummage sales, sometimes only making $75 for the group ... but they were always appreciative. My wanting to help animals grew from there. I myself have several rescue and some foster animals that were never adopted.”
The thrift store will offer a little bit of everything, from clothing to kitchenware, to DVDs, CDs, toys and books - all donated items, reasonably priced. The need for donations is ongoing, given the ultimate goal of helping fund Mountain Area animal groups.
Hills’ assistants in this venture are long-time volunteers Roxanne Eve Karr and Virginia Boswell. Hills will devote her full-time attention and energy to the shop once she retires from Chawanakee Unified School District later this month.
The All Fur Love Thrift Store is located at 40761 Highway 41. Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday.