Abby’s House Thrift Shop thrives at temporary address, preps for Holiday Shopping Bazaar

Monica Sager , Scarlet Staff

Business is good at Abby’s House Thrift Shop, as the 30-year-old business tries to make the most of a new Worcester location since the start of the year.  The store has temporarily moved to 875-R Main St., near Oberlin and Ripley streets, due to renovations at the organization’s High St. headquarters.


“We are very fortunate here,” said Wendy Harvey, Thrift Shop Manager. “We’ve actually done exceptionally well, a lot better than we anticipated.”  


The Thrift Shop held its fifth annual Holiday Shopping Bazaar this Saturday, November 3 from 10am to 2pm at the new location.

“We raise more money in four hours than we do in a whole week,” Harvey said of the November event. “It’s a big community thing now.”

Abby’s Thrift Shop is tailored to women.  While the new location is smaller, with around 60 volunteers helping out at various times, there is plenty of merchandise.  The circular racks even boast gently worn designer brand clothing, ranging from Talbots to Ralph Lauren for just $4.


“When I go into Kohl’s or Macy’s and I pick up an item, I go ‘Well, I’m not paying that,’ when I see the quality of what comes through here,” Harvey observed. “I think the whole idea of what thrift shops used to be has changed.”  

The shop stocks mostly women’s clothing as well as household items.  Children’s clothing and bedding with new tags are accepted as well. Items such as furniture, men’s clothing, and electronics are not accepted.  

“People donate because they know it makes a difference to the women at Abby’s House,” Executive Director Stephanie Page said. “It’s really a resource for the whole community.”  


The shop has raised 14 percent of Abby’s House’s operating revenue to date this year, according to Colleen McGoldrick, Development and Communications Specialist.


Harvey spoke of a woman in Boston who gathers donations from herself and co-workers. “She brings truckloads,” Harvey said. “People like that have been associated with Abby’s forever.”


But Abby’s House won’t be at its Main South location for long.


“We’re looking to do a grand reopening the first week of January at the new store,” Harvey said.

Meanwhile, many people have followed the shop to its current address.


“Probably 50 percent of our regular customers still come down,” Harvey said, noting that the Main St. location attracts new business as well.  “This is a good area for walking, for people to be able to walk to the store. You can definitely tell the big sense of community in this area.”


Harvey thinks the latest customers will follow the Thrift Store back to its original location.  She talked of providing incentives like a frequent shopper card or discount coupon.


“Even if they can’t walk, it’s on the bus route,” Harvey said.


The ongoing construction at Abby’s House, which began in February, mainly will expand residential capacity at the complex. “The only renovations that were scheduled to be done to the Thrift Shop were just the plumbing and electrical,” Harvey said. “We were very fortunate to get awarded a grant from the Worcester Health Foundation of $75,000, which is enabling us to totally redo the Thrift Store—new fixtures, fittings, and counters.  When we start up again, we’ll also allow the use of credit and debit cards.”


“We haven’t received government funds for our programs, so we have been able to do what we do because of the community,” Page said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the people who donate clothing, without the people who come to our shop, without people who volunteer, without the people who give monetary donations.”


Thrift Shop vouchers are available to Abby’s House residents as well as homeless or low-income women referred to the organization by over 25 community partners, including the YWCA Daybreak, Worcester Family Resource Center, and South Middlesex Opportunity Council.


“So the store is not just raising money for the mission, but also it’s helping women who need basic items and clothing,” Page explained.


In the past, Abby’s House Thrift Shop and Clark Community Thrift Shop, its temporary neighbor at 930 Main St., have traded goods. According to Jenny Isler, the Clark Community Thrift Store’s co-advisor, the partnership is a win-win-win for both thrift shops and the community.


“The more of that community support and social-purpose enterprise that we have available, the better,” Isler said. “The more the merrier.”


For the Holiday Shopping Bazaar, the women who live at Abby’s House created cross-body bags, according to McGoldrick. The women typically make something different each year for the event.  The new items will joined the usual array of jewelry, toys, wreaths, and ornaments.

All proceeds from the Bazaar, like those from the Thrift Shop, support Abby’s House.

Abby’s House Thrift Shop is open Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This story first ran the Telegram and Gazette as part of the collaboration between that newspaper and Clark’s Urban Community Journalism class.