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PTO Thrift Shop Expands

The Showcase gets its own space.

by Patti Smith

From the February, 2017 issue

In a 2014 Observer interview Janet Fritsch, then president of the Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop, said she was hoping for "bigger and better things" in the organization's future. Her wish came true with the opening of the nonprofit's Showcase Space next to the main store on South Industrial.

The shop raises money for Ann Arbor Public Schools parent-teacher organizations and nonprofits supporting student activities and enrichment. Sales have been growing so fast, says executive director Ann Farnham, that when the landlord asked if they wanted the former TV Warehouse spot, they knew they had to take it.

"We decided the best way to utilize it was to separate out those higher-end, red-tagged items that were at the back of the [main] shop in the 'showcase' space," Farnham says. "We knew we had enough of these special items for a separate shop."

Farnham began volunteering at the thrift shop in 2008, "organizing volunteers to come in to work in the donation space. It was a big, empty warehouse, and so I brought in some tables, a pot of coffee and helped start a process to sort the donated goods." She later joined the board and in 2013 was hired as executive director, heading a paid staff of thirty-seven workers.

"When someone donates a special item, we want to make sure we are honoring that donation and getting as much as we possibly can for the schools," Farnham says. "This new space allows us to dedicate the staff and the space to ensure that these donations are shown in the best light possible."

The Showcase Space opened with limited hours in August. Within a month, Farnham reports, it was showing a profit, and it came out publicly with a press release, expanded hours, and its own sign in December. In January, items on display included high-end professional clothing; a silk wedding dress; a delicate teacup made in U.S.-occupied Japan; vintage postcards; a signed photograph of Jane Russell;

...continued below...

vintage ceramic swans; and even a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

Like the main store, the Showcase offers 10 percent discounts for seniors, students, AAPS staff, and military personnel-plus a 25 percent discount on your birthday. A friendly cashier points out that these are "stackable"-so an AAPS staff member who's a veteran and taking classes at EMU could potentially save a lot of money the day she turned sixty.

Ann Arbor PTO Thrift Shop Showcase Space, 2284A South Industrial, 996-9155. Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Donations accepted starting an hour later and ending an hour earlier.)    (end of article)

[Originally published in February, 2017.]


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