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Nevada County’s thrift stores move ahead with reopening

By the numbers

As of May 21

Nevada County

Number of COVID-19 cases: 41

Number tested: 2,189

Number in western county: 12

Number in eastern county: 29

Number of active cases: zero

Number of recoveries: 40

Number of deaths: 1

Learn more at http://www.theunion.com/coronavirus

A dozen thrift stores that support myriad nonprofit organizations throughout Nevada County have been on hiatus for two months.

These nonprofits rely heavily on the revenue generated by reselling donations to support their programs, which span the gamut from animal rescue to diabetes support. Most say, however, that reserves kept them afloat during the shutdown and many already have reopened — with limited hours — now that Nevada County is in the state-approved Phase 2.

One of the first to throw open its doors was Sweet Life Thrift, which opened Saturday for a first trial. Founder Carolyn Maginot said it will then be open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Maginot invested in several canopy tents that she set up outside in the parking lot with markings for social distancing.

“We’re doing OK because we had some reserves, but eventually we would run out of money.”Cheryl Wicks, Sammie’s Friends

“We have put a lot of merchandise outside on racks, our dollar racks and discount racks,” she said. “That took a lot of stuff outside the store — there is plenty of room out there.”

Sweet Life is limiting customers inside the store to six at a time, and they are being asked to distance themselves in the small rooms.

“Everybody has to wear a mask; it is not negotiable,” Maginot said. “We have masks available for a $2 donation. Because we are a diabetes (support) thrift store and they have a higher risk of complications, it just doesn’t make any sense (to let) people to come in without a mask.”

Sweet Life did cut back its hours of operation because it has lost several volunteers, Maginot said.

“We’re lucky, our overhead is low,” she added. “Hopefully, we’ll get a lot of people in. … If it wasn’t for the thrift store, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do. One hundred percent of our net proceeds goes to diabetes assistance. … Fortunately, we had a good reserve of funds so we could make our expenses.”

Hospice of the Foothills — which maintains thrift stores in Nevada City, Grass Valley and Penn Valley, along with a warehouse where donations are sorted — reopened just one of its stores Wednesday. The Nevada City location will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, while the warehouse will open Wednesdays and Thursdays, for now. The number of customers will be limited, face masks will be required, social distancing rules will be in place and customers will have their temperatures checked via infrared thermometer prior to admittance. Anyone with a fever of higher than 100 degrees will not be admitted. Donations will be pulled from vehicles and then will be “quarantined” for five days before processing.

Executive Director Viv Tipton spent a large part of the day Tuesday training with staff.

“We got some real clear guidelines on how to sanitize,” she said. “We anticipate the desire (to shop) will be greater than our capacity, but we’re comfortable dipping our toes in the water.”

Hospice is requiring customers wear masks because it is a health care organization, Tipton said.

“As a stakeholder in health care. We want to be on the very conservative edge of that,” she said. “We know a mask will keep people safer, so we are making that requirement. We have gotten a little bit of pushback, but we are comfortable with that decision.”

That said, Tipton added, if infection numbers stay flat as people start to move about more freely, Hospice might ease up on its restrictions.

The revenue generated by the thrift stores is “incredible,” Tipton said, adding that they also provide a great recycling service and help get the Hospice name out to the public.

Tipton estimated the stores will bring in a net of $250,000 this year.

“It is amazing” how much this community supports its thrift stores, she said. “It’s actually a beautiful way to support the community. A lot of the thrift stores in this community do really well. From our perspective, it’s pretty nice.”


Both Sammie’s Friends and AnimalSave estimated their thrift stores account for about 30 to 40% of their revenue.

AnimalSave has reopened its thrift store and bookstore from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, limiting numbers and requiring masks, and closing early for deep cleaning.

“We had to develop a plan and do training to make sure we are doing this in a safe way for our volunteers and staff and clients,” said Executive Director Carolyn Niehaus. “We are sorting out how this will work, practically.

“It’s a whole different ball game for everybody, but we’re happy to be reopening because it is a good source of our revenue to carry out the programs we run, the spay/neuter clinic and rescue and adoption programs. The net income from those two operations cover about 30% of all our program costs, so that is a pretty sizable chunk of money for us.”

Sammie’s Nifty Thrifty Shop reopened last Friday and, said Sammie’s Friends founder Cheryl Wicks, the line was out the door that first day.

“Everybody was extremely polite and pleasant; no one got annoyed,” she said. “It seems like we’re back in business.”

The store is closing an hour early for now, Wicks said, so that an end-of-day deep cleaning can take place.

Wicks estimated about 40% of her budget — which funds shelter operations as well as spaying and neutering, and helps with veterinary bills — comes from the thrift store.

“It is a big source of revenue,” she said. “We’re doing OK because we had some reserves, but eventually we would run out of money. Financially we think we’re going to be OK.”

Rescue For Pet Sake plans to open its thrift store for the first time Friday. It will then be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Most of its merchandise will be in the parking lot, said founder Pamela Gorman. Only two or three people at a time will be allowed inside the small store.

“It will be a process and we will have to adapt,” she said. “We want to make sure everybody is safe.”

Gorman said her shoestring operation has been strapped since the shutdown, even though she is as frugal as possible.

“Our donations are way down,” she said. “The store actually provides (funding) over and above our bills. … I can’t believe we’ve been able to stay open … We do need funds.”


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Coronavirus Guidance for Businesses/Employers

Nevada County Relief Fund for Covid-19

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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