Walk into the Council Thrift Shop in Bergenfield, and you’re immediately squeezed between racks and racks of jackets, pants, skirts, men’s suits, and coats. The effect is both claustrophobic and exhilarating.
Women’s hats perch on a stand in the storefront’s window. Jeans in all shades of denim spill off a nearby rack. There are shelves of books and a case of Judaica, lots of dishes, linens, pictures, lamps, shoes, handbags, and many items that could only be characterized as bric-a-brac.
"We have a lot of great tchotchkes," says Harriet Breuer cheerfully. Breuer is in her second year as the vice president in charge of the thrift shop for the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), Bergen County section. Like nearly everyone else who works there, she is a volunteer. The exceptions are a full-time manager and two men who unload and sort clothes. All three work on Saturdays to keep the thrift shop open when Jewish volunteers are unavailable.
Such accommodations are common in the three local thrift shops run by Jewish organizations. Staffed by volunteers, the shops sell donated merchandise ranging from a dollar or two for books, underwear, and accessories, up to hundreds of dollars for gently used fur coats and, occasionally, diamond jewelry. Donors get a receipt for "fair market value" for their tax records.
Council Thrift Shop’s profits go to support Jewish and community causes in the case of the Bergenfield store, these include the Children’s Literacy Initiative, a program of NCJW and the Bergen County Office for Children Human Services Advisory Council; the Center for Food Action, which has sites in Bergen and Passaic counties; and the Jewish Home at Rockleigh.
The Helen Sanders Thrift Shop at the Daughters of Miriam/The Gallen Institute in Clifton supports the center’s programs and elderly residents. Manager Helen Sanders, who started the thrift shop 35 years ago, still comes in every day the shop is open to sort and price goods that are dropped off.
"Since we’re right in the building, many of the residents come down to shop, and they love it," she says. Men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing is priced modestly at $’ to $10, as are the household items, dishes, and small furniture. Sanders says shoppers are about evenly divided between residents and "outside people."
The NCJW Replay Thrift Shop in Nyack, which has been in operation for 30 years, is run by the National Council of Jewish Women, Rockland County section. The shop’s manager, Addy Frankel says, "We are a community service, and we support all kinds of community agencies, not just Jewish ones." Among the beneficiaries are the Ramapo Senior Center, the Holocaust Museum & Study Center in Spring Valley, Childcare Resources of Rockland County, Holiday Food Baskets, and Meals on Wheels.
Frankel terms the shop’s goods "upscale," and says prices range from $3 to $500; most clothing items are priced at $3 to $50.
Where the shops are
Council Thrift Shop
75 S. Washington Ave.
Bergenfield, NJ 076’1
Open Mon., Tues., Wed., Fri., 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Donations accepted Mon.-Wed., 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Helen Sanders Thrift Shop
At Daughters of Miriam Center/The Gallen Institute
155 Hazel St.
Clifton, NJ 07015
Open Mon., Wed., Fri., 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
Donations accepted during shopping hours.
NCJW Replay Thrift Shop
145 Main St.
Nyack, NY 10960
Open Mon.-Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sat., 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Donations accepted Thurs.-Sun., 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.