November 4, 2009 // Local

New St. Henry’s Thrift Shoppe keeps smiles coming

By Mary Kinder

FORT WAYNE — There’s plenty to smile about at the new St. Henry’s Thrift Shoppe. Located on the campus of St. Henry’s on the northwest corner of Hessen Cassel and Paulding roads, the thrift shoppe has been open since July, serving a growing number of customers each week. From the twinkling bell over the front door and the hot pot of coffee where “community roundtable” discussions take place, to the warm welcome that greets everyone who enters and the charitable prices, an atmosphere of goodwill is found in every corner of the store.

Once customers find St. Henry’s Thrift Shoppe, they come back again and again. It could be the clean, quality merchandise, ranging from clothing items to knickknacks and small household appliances, neatly displayed throughout the store. It could be the low prices, clearly marked and designed to help shoppers get the items they need in these tough economic times. Or it just might be the warm atmosphere created by manager Jose Tarango and assistant manager Connie Torres.

Tarango, a member of St. Henry’s for over 15 years, enjoys working at the thrift shoppe. Routinely putting in as many as 60 hours a week, Tarango says the best part of his job is the people, “I meet a lot of different people every day coming through our door. When they leave they have a big smile on their faces. That’s what makes it all worthwhile,” he said.

Smiles come easily to Tarango, who not only manages the thrift shoppe, but also finds merchandise for the store — through donations, garage sales and anywhere else he can think of, often driving to other cities for items he can’t pass up. He points out a large, smiling Santa and Mrs. Claus on their perch near the front door. The pair, dressed in faded green velvet, was once a part of the famed Wolf and Dessauer Department Store Christmas display in downtown Fort Wayne.

Assistant manager Connie Torres became involved with the thrift shoppe when she volunteered to help with a parish garage sale, now she’s at the store almost every day. While she doesn’t live in the neighborhood, she does think of St. Henry’s as her home. When her daughter tried to convince her to join a parish closer to her house, she answered, “But they don’t need me there … they need me at St. Henry’s.”

The thrift shoppe’s biggest sellers are baby items, priced from 25 cents for T-shirts and onesies to $2 for winter coats. The idea behind the shop is to offer quality items at very low prices — even when compared to other secondhand stores. The affordable prices keep the merchandise moving quickly out of the store, making room for new items which, in turn, helps attract even more bargain shoppers.

Even with the lower than normal prices, the thrift shoppe does pull in a profit, which pays for utilities and puts money back into the parish. Father Daniel Durkin, pastor at St. Henry’s, explains how the thrift shoppe got its start. “We’re trying to serve the needs of the community. We had a clothing bank, but we thought that by putting quality merchandise and fine items for sale at a low cost, we could help even more people.”

The thrift shoppe provides free items to those in need, accepting vouchers from various community organizations. But both Tarango and Father Durkin are quick to point out that they are always willing to reach out to anyone who needs a helping hand.

Father Durkin is hoping the thrift shoppe will become a cornerstone of the parish, bringing people throughout the community to the campus. Next spring he hopes to add a farmer’s market and senior open air market to the parking lot adjacent to the thrift shoppe.

The thrift shoppe already serves as a gathering place for the community. People are drawn to Tarango’s quick jokes and to Torres’s welcoming nature as much as they are the merchandise. In addition, the thrift shoppe has six volunteers who donate time regularly, helping display merchandise and sort through donations.

The thrift shoppe is currently looking for donations of winter coats for infants, children and adults, but are always interested in clean, quality merchandise of any type, or as Tarango puts it, “anything you don’t have to feed, water or put to sleep.” Donations are accepted during store hours or can be placed in the donation box located near the entrance to the store.

St. Henry’s Thrift Shoppe hours
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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