When the Newton Et Cetera Shop thrift store closes next week, it won’t be for lack of business. They’ve worn out the floor again.
“We sell about 1,800 items a day, if that gives you an idea of the activity of the store,” general manager Sara Dick said. “We have about 300 customers a day. We’re a busy place in downtown Newton.”
And don’t worry, it will reopen mid-February, if work on the back room’s floor proceeds as planned.
“We’re always doing little fix-ups because it’s an old building,” Dick said.
Started in 1976, the nonprofit shop moved to the former Woolworth’s building in 1990.
Et Cetera’s mission remains much the same as always: raising money for the Mennonite Central Committee’s work in foreign countries and the United States, plus being what Dick calls a good steward of the earth’s resources. With a pair of shoes, for instance, “We give them a second home on somebody’s feet rather than in the landfill.”
Most of the money goes to relief work for natural disasters and development in Third World counties. Since 2013, the shop has also set aside 10 percent of its after-cost proceeds for grants to local organizations.
Eleven employees and 240 volunteers work in the store. Some of the latter come in once a month, others several times a week. “We really can’t run the store without our volunteers,” Dick said.
Racks of clothes take up much of the space. Et Cetera also features a large book department, housewares, electronics, fabric, sheets, placemats, blankets, toys, furniture and more.
The store always has a silent auction going for some of its more valuable items. Currently, bids are being taken on a collection of toy tractors, a train set, nativity scene, artwork, jewelry and dishes.
Donations come from all over, Dick said. “We have folks who are dropping off clothing their kids have outgrown or toys they no longer play with, people cleaning out a deceased family member’s home, all kinds of things that people no longer need.”
Someone donated a canoe recently, “which was a fun challenge to display,” she said. “We had it hoisted up above our front windows, which was quite dramatic. It got a generous donation.”
The store will continue to accept donations at its front and back doors while closed.
Et Cetera’s staff also weave rag rugs out of donated materials. “That’s something we’ve been doing for 42 years,” Dick said.
Dick, a former pastor, was already a fan of the store when she started working there about a year ago.
“I feel great about the thrift store business right now,” she said. “Some people are motivated by a green sensibility to shop thrift. Those are some of our younger shoppers. Some folks are on a limited budget. Some folks like the mission of our store and want to make sure their dollars are being put to good use.”
The store does more than just raise money for good causes, she said. She recalled how she recently came across one shopper giving another an impromptu crocheting lesson in an aisle.
“This is a meeting place in a way that not a lot of other stores are. Here it only costs five cents or a dollar or five dollars to come in and leave with a bag of goodies. It’s an easy way to have a little fun and connect with others in the community.”