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Church thrift store celebrates 50 years of serving, selling to public

The pastor of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in 1965, the Rev. John Hamblin Jr.,
checks donations to the church-run Attic Shoppe on St. Pete Beach. Though styles have changed, the shop’s focus has held steady for five decades.

Times files | 1965

The pastor of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in 1965, the Rev. John Hamblin Jr., checks donations to the church-run Attic Shoppe on St. Pete Beach. Though styles have changed, the shop’s focus has held steady for five decades.

Fifty years is a long time for any retailer to be in business. For one completely dependent on donations and volunteers, it's even more remarkable.

But that's the case for the Attic Shoppe, a small thrift store on St. Pete Beach. Volunteers at nearby St. Alban's Episcopal Church opened the store at 316 Corey Ave. a half-century ago to help fund outreach programs and offer locals cheap clothing and knickknacks.

Over the decades, the store has been a labor of love for hundreds of volunteers who have kept it in business. One of the founders, Jane Gaugh, 88, remains an active volunteer but currently is recovering from a broken pelvis.

"It's like a ministry,'' said Berry Ludwig, the Attic's co-manager with Joan Elder and Elaine Jett. "It's a place where people can come in to talk and get a smile. A lot of people are lonely.''

The store generates about $30,000 to $35,000 a year, which might not seem a lot until you consider many of the items sell for a buck. Proceeds go to St. Alban's church, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) and St. Giles Food Pantry.

All week, the store is celebrating its milestone with a 50 percent off sale and prizes donated by Corey Avenue merchants. Drawings for the prizes will be at 1 p.m. Saturday when St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe will cut the anniversary ribbon. The Rev. Gigi Conner from St. Alban's will say a prayer that the store lasts another 50 years.

Covering retail, I get a steady stream of press releases about new reports relating to the industry. Two recently caught my eye — one about snobby sales people and the other about mobile shopping.

The first, out of the University of British Columbia, found that when it comes to high-end brands, shoppers buy more when the salespeople are rude.

"It appears that snobbiness might actually be a qualification worth considering for luxury brands like Louis Vuitton or Gucci," says Darren Dahl, a marketing professor at the university's Sauder School of Business. "Our research indicates they can end up having a similar effect to an 'in group' in high school that others aspire to join."

The study found that participants who expressed a desire to be associated with high-end brands also reported an increased desire to own the luxury products after being treated poorly.

The rudeness effect only held true, however, if the salesperson knew what he or she was talking about. Snobbiness also didn't work for mass-market, lowbrow brands.

"Our study shows you've got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work," Dahl said.

The mobile shopping study found that while many mobile shoppers don't want to be tracked while in stores, they may be willing to provide personal information if the price is right.

The survey by PriceGrabber found that half of consumers would give information such as age, gender, email address and clothing size in exchange for a reward, according to MediaPost, a website for advertising and media professionals.

But most interesting was what shoppers deemed a reward. When asked what reward they would want on a $100 product, about one-third said they wanted a 50 percent discount, and a quarter preferred a $50 gift card. Anything less and they might leave the store.

It seems that in this age of retail cyber breaches, it's going to take retailers a lot more than small lures to get shoppers to fork over their information.

Susan Thurston can be reached at or (813) 225-3110.

Church thrift store celebrates 50 years of serving, selling to public 05/05/14 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2014 9:06pm]
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