Happy News For The New Year At The Bargain Barn
By Lisa Green
You can practically feel the sighs of relief — and the air of jubilation — whirling around the filled-to-the-rafters Bargain Barn Thrift Shop, and not just because it’s Christmas shopping time.
No, it’s because the Sharon, Conn. thrift shop — a community center, everyone insists — was saved from its demise when the Health Care Auxiliary for the Tri-State Region announced in early November that it was dissolving its charitable status. Thus, they would no longer be able to run the nonprofit thrift store. No other nonprofit organization stepped up to take over. Things looked grim.
Enter Tri-State Public Communications, better known as Robin Hood Radio, which, like its namesake would have done, swooped in and rescued the bargain hunter’s destination. (Full disclosure: Rural Intelligence has a weekly radio podcast on Robin Hood Radio.)
Station co-founders Marshall Miles — whose mother had run the Bargain Barn for a number of years — and Jill Goodman had posted the possible closing on the station’s Facebook page and on a town page. The response was a lot of upset Bargain Barn fans.
“Jill and I looked at one another and said, ‘we’re a 501c3, let’s investigate,’” relates Miles. An informal agreement came quickly, and they signed all the paperwork just before Thanksgiving.
“It’s managed and run extremely well; that’s why we could take this on” Miles says. “It’s a no-brainer for us. We’re there for the public good. If we can raise funds and keep a viable asset going, we’ll do it.”
Now, proceeds from Bargain Barn sales will go to “the smallest NPR station in the nation.” But the benefits of the transfer of ownership go much deeper than that. Susan Leslie, under whose direction the Bargain Barn has been so ably managed the last 13 years, emphasizes the importance of the thrift store as a community-gathering place.
“People come here to shop — we’re a full-service thrift shop, with art, gowns, vintage clothing, jewelry, housewares, a ‘posh’ section — but people come in just to talk, look at a magazine or listen to music. They might not have a place to go, and we provide a haven for them.”
The prices are kept low, and that, along with the eclectic nature of the merchandise and the often surprising things donors bring in — this is Litchfield County, after all — allows the customer base to run the gamut from those who stick to the 25-cent table to some famous names Leslie declined to reveal.
“People come from all over — Poughkeepsie, Albany, lower Fairfield County, New York. I have one customer who will be 100 in a couple of months. She drives up from the city,” Leslie says. A fun fact: about 50 percent of the customers are men.
When I visited the Bargain Barn, there wasn’t a single customer who didn’t mention the store’s possible demise and relief that it was scooped up by Tri-State.
The “barn” itself is a rambling assemblage of rooms, loosely divided into sections for apparel; books, CDs and markdown tables; housewares; and the tucked-away “posh” department. New merchandise comes in every day, and ever since the new ownership was announced, donations have increased.
“The hills are alive with the sounds of the Bargain Barn’s new life,” says Leslie.
The Bargain Barn
1 Low Road, Sharon, CT
Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Donations accepted 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.