Now that the back-to-school season has rolled to a close, the holidays are next on the shopping agenda. At any time of the year, but especially approaching the year's end, the American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop is a favorite destination.
With two retail locations - one for clothing and one for furniture and home furnishings, at Mission Plaza at 1987 and 1991-L Santa Rita Road - the store has been offering a great assortment of gently-used, upscale-quality, reasonably-priced merchandise since 1989.
The Discovery Shop's tag line is "a unique quality resale experience," and it has been that way since its founding in southern California in 1965, when a volunteer in the San Fernando Valley, Denise Noel, pioneered the upscale concept as a way to stand out from other local thrift stores.
The insistence on quality is evident in standards that call for clothing to have 75 percent of usable life left before being put out for sale. It is also accompanied by a policy of hiring managers who are familiar with brands and manufacturers, whether of clothes, furniture, or collectibles. Values are carefully researched before items are priced. "Even before the Internet, we always looked things up in reference sources," relates Monda Wiseman, who manages the Pleasanton shop. For the donors' sake, it is important to hit the mark on pricing, she points out. "They want the society to make as much money as possible from their donations."
The fall season is a particularly active time for several reasons. Holiday shoppers pop in often to scour the store not just for serious gifts such as fine jewelry but for light-hearted white-elephant type exchanges - or to dress for social occasions like "over-the-top Christmas sweater" parties.
A big attraction is the transformation of the furniture store into a specialty Christmas shop. Many local retailers donate their unsold holiday merchandise at the end of the season, making for a bountiful selection for those who want to get an early start on decorating. It's also an opportunity for teenage volunteers to get creative, fashioning their own themed wreaths to put on the selling floor.
The Discovery Shop also hosts special sales, stocking up ahead of time on items such as jewelry, women's accessories, or linens. "We might email donors asking if they have handbags to contribute to our accessories event," Wiseman notes. The jewelry sales always bring in buyers - and revenue. "In two days this past March we took in $21,000 in jewelry sales. We were surprised! We hear that everyone is selling their gold, but we have many generous donors who are committed to the organization who sent their unwanted gold jewelry to us."
Helping to provide support in the fight against cancer is the ultimate mission of the shop. "So many of our donors and volunteers have been touched by cancer," Wiseman remarks. "The American Cancer Society is such a terrific organization. People can call our 800-number (800-ACS-2345) 24-hours a day, 365 days a year, to ask any question they might have about cancer. Working here is very heart-warming. It's the best job ever."
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