by Bill Batson
“We have a solid base from the neighborhood,” said Theresa Bergen, co-manager of Grace’s Thrift Shop. “People need the kind of prices that we have.” At almost every season in a life, a thrift shop trip comes in handy. Bergen cites moving, cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate. A new apartment, looking for savings, or the guilty pleasure of browsing through bric-a brac might inspire a visit to 10 South Broadway.
The operative word in this shop’s name, however, is Grace. Theologically, the word is defined as the “free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.” Founded in 1968 by a group of parishioners from Grace Episcopal Church to support initiatives for child care in Nyack, the blessings have also come from a legion of volunteers and donors who for decades have made this store a place where one can unload clutter and be thrifty and fabulous at the same time.
In the 1890’s, the revenue from this storefront helped nurture one of America’s greatest realist painters, Edward Hopper. Hopper’s father, Garret (1852-1913), owned a dry goods store at this address. The younger Hopper (1882 – 1967) worked here after school. According to Anya Berg, Adult Services Librarian at
Palisades Free Library and author, “while often defined by his occupation, Garrett’s personal interests centered around literature, an affection for which he passed on to his son. But sympathetic to, and encouraging of Edward’s preference for art over business, Garrett did not pressure Edward to take over the family store.”
The Hoppers are just one of an infinite number of families whose lives flow through this storefront. Each object for sale has some mysterious intrinsic meaning, and may soon be imbued with the aura of a new owner. For tourists, young families, hipsters, and bargain hunters, the prices deliver on the promise of thrift, and the money spent bestows grace on the recipients of programs funded by the purchase.
Today, more than 30 organizations benefit from contributions generated by sales at Grace’s Thrift Shop. Contributions help send water to Flint, Michigan, serve meals to the hungry through Soup Angels and help children attend after-school programs at Nyack Center, among many others.
If you want to pop some tags, only got twenty dollars in your pocket? This thrift shop is frankly awesome.
To learn more about the people who volunteer their time here, and those who donate and shop here, and the programs they support, Nyack Sketch Log asked Theresa and her co-manager, Kickie Fulmor, a few questions.
Groups that benefit from Grace Thrift Shop
- Amazing Grace Circus
- Cell Phones for Military
- Center for Safety and Change
- Grace Episcopal Church
- Grace’s Kitchen Monthly Pledge
- Head Start Nyack
- Habitat for Humanity Rockland Co.
- Helping Hands
- Hi Tor
- Homes for Heroes, Camp Shanks
- Living Museum Rockland
- Mazzeppa Fire Company
- Meals on Wheels
- Midnight Run
- Murphy House
- Nam Knights
- Nyack Center
- Nyack Homeless Project (Coat Drive)
- Nyack Senior Center
- People to People
- Pizza with a Purpose
- Rockland Hospital Guild
- St. Anne’s Pantry
- St. Dominic’s Home
- St. Zita’s
- Soup Angels
- Sunday Supper
- The Fellowship Community
- Venture Inn
- Water to Flint, Michigan
- YMCA Nyack Child Care
- Youth Service Mission
Grace Episcopal Church
130 1st Ave, Nyack
Grace Kitchen serves a free, healthy and delicious breakfast every Thursday, from 7a-8:30a, 52 weeks a year to anyone in the community in need at Grace Church.
Breakfast is served by volunteers on china with silverware and table linens.
8:00am Holy Eucharist (Rite I)
9:30am Holy Eucharist
(Family service, followed by Church School)
11:00am Holy Eucharist (Rite II, Grace Choir)
4:00pm Choral Evensong
(First Sunday of the month, October-May)
I understand you are having an anniversary. Congratulations. When did Grace Thrift Shop first open?
November 1968 at 58 S. Broadway and was named Grace’s Corner Thrift Shop. In Sept. ’69 it was renamed Grace’s Thrift Shop and moved to 10 S Broadway. So we’re turning 50!
Who were some of the founding members?
The shop was formed by the Episcopal Church Women of Grace Church, Nyack. (ECW) The first board included Bartie Leber, President of ECW; Margie Davids, Shop Chairman/Manager; Herrietta Conlin, Publicity Chairman; Jane Chaffe, Vice President; Helen Cook, Secretary; and Margaret Gilhuley, Treasurer. It is my belief that there are no women alive today who among the founding members. Faith Harvie was the last.
Why did Grace church start a thrift?
Child Care, then and now was largely unfunded. A decision was made to support a day care center opening at St. Paul’s Methodist Church in South Nyack and to support other community and church programs.
What are some of the community groups that you currently support?
People can visit the Grace Church website to see the list. Most gifts range between $300 to $1000. In recent years 1 or 2 groups have shared the December gift, the amount of which is decided after the books close on December 31st. Last year that gift went to Nyack Head Start. While our gifts are given with no strings attached, we understand that a number of Smart boards grace the classrooms.
We also have a number of downstream charities that we can help by passing along things we can not use. One is in Nicaragua, and a local group picks up from us and does the shipping. We also supply Midnight Run with winter garments. Things which we cannot use at all go to the Boy Scout Donation Boxes on Church Street.
Are all the management and staff volunteers?
All are volunteers. We do have an Executive Board to help with decisions, but all are referred to as Volunteers. Most people work a 3 hour shift each.
Who is your longest volunteer?
We do have people working whose mother or mother-in-law also worked here. I believe Martha Graham and Betsy Growney are our present longest working volunteers. Jeanne Duryea worked at the shop until her final year – (age 104).
How many volunteers do you currently have?
45 About half are from Grace Church and the other half are from the community at large.
What is the most valuable thing donated (I’ve heard about an 1899 flag that probably draped over the casket of President McKinley in NYC)? Anything more or nearly as spectacular?
I may be the wrong one to ask as I tend to focus on the bottom line, but a service for 12 of Limoges china may have been the highest priced item to sell, at $750.
What are some of the questions you would like people to ask themselves before they donate?
Would you give this to a friend or family member?
Would you use this yourself?
Is the item in good repair and sparkly clean?
If you answered no to any of these questions then Grace’s will not be able to sell the item.
What kind of items do you have for sale?
Clothing: Men’s, Women’s, Children’s
Dishes, glasses, kitchenware, toys, tools, games
Linens, lamps, bedding
Easier to say what we don’t sell. No furniture or tvs. No plants. Nothing too big. No out-dated electronics. No books
What kind of items are you looking for?
It’s winter, so coats are needed. After that we trust to what come in the door to provide a great mix.
Family Open House
at the Hopper House
Families that are fans of Edward Hopper are welcome to attend a Family Open House at the Edward Hopper House Museum and Study Center on November 11, from noon – 1p.
Nyack Sketch Log artist and author Bill Batson will draw urban landscapes with you.
$10 per family. Members Free.
The Hopper House is located at 82 North Broadway.
Who are your customers?
We have a solid base from the neighborhood. People need the kind of prices that we have.
Everyone. People moving, or cleaning out a closet, and losing or gaining ten pounds as reasons to donate.
Is there any solidarity between the thrift shops?
We regularly tell people about the Montefiore Hospital thrift. We also refer people to Nyack merchants and restaurants who might have what people are looking for. And we keep a list of free meals and where to get them.
Do you sell any antiques?
We like to be accurate. We research many items. We are absolutely sure when we say an item is an antique. If we are not sure, and cannot find the item on line, we prefer to call it vintage.
Does anyone come in and ask about the Hopper Dry Goods Store?
Very few ask but for those who do we like to tell them about it
What are your plans for the future?
Deep in our hearts we believe that our work is feeding the hungry, clothing those in need, caring for children, aiding the mentally ill, providing all manner of things at prices people can afford and generally helping those in need. We might be very happy if our world put us out of business. We don’t so much plan for the future as trust that we will be given interesting things to sell, and encourage each other to keep on keeping on. If you ask our volunteers why they work, they will say they are here to “give back.”
Nyack Sketch Log, Volume 2 will be available the last week in November. Fifty-five more sketches and short essays! Purchase an advance copy and get $5 off the cover price. Email your interest to firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Bill Batson Arts tent at the Nyack Farmers’ Market on Thursdays.
For reading all the way to the end, here’s a bonus, Macklemore’s internationally embraced thrift shop anthem with over 1 billion views of Youtube. Warning: the lyrics are not safe for work, but it’s frankly awesome.
Special thanks to Rev. Owen Thompson, Caran Pullen, Judy Martin and Betty Perry.