By Stephen J. Kotz
Bargain hunters looking for a decent used blazer, that special piece of etched glass, or even just a new coffee mug for the office were treated to a rude awakening last week when they learned that the Dominican Sisters Family Health Services thrift shop, long a fixture in its small space on Washington Street, would be closing by month’s end.
The closing was announced by a handwritten sign in the window posted by one of the shop’s volunteers, Joy Brady. She said on Tuesday that she was upset with the way the ArchCares, the health services arm of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, which took over Dominican Sisters Family Health Services at the beginning of the year, went about closing the Sag Harbor shop and a similar one in Greenport. A third thrift shop in Hampton Bays closed last year when it lost its lease.
ArchCares said the decision was simply a financial one. “Sadly, the expenses involved in operating the shops have placed an increasing financial drain on our ministry over the last several years,” a letter from the organization announcing the decision stated.
But Ms. Brady said that was nonsense. While the shops were never truly profit centers, “we never had a loss here,” she said on Tuesday. Double J Realty, the shop’s landlord, has always been more than fair with its leases, and the shop has been almost totally staffed by volunteers, she said.
Proceeds from both stores, she added, have been used to help fund “Helping Hands,” a Dominican Sisters program that provides the type of services that aren’t typically covered by health insurance such as help with house cleaning, grocery shopping or other errands.
Besides the people who enjoy finding a bargain or two, the Sag Harbor shop has provided a real service for people on fixed incomes who simply can’t afford to shop at other stores, even if they are discount retailers like T.J. Maxx, said Laura Race, who has managed the shop for the past six years and is its only paid employee. “For a lot of customers, all the clothing they own is from thrift shops,” she said.
Ms. Brady said volunteers at the shop are known to check on the homeless men who sometimes can be found under the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge to make sure they are fed and well clothed. “This is a true mission,” she said.
Ms. Race and volunteers have been sorting through the shop’s remaining stock, which ranges from men’s dress shirts and suit coats to women’s slacks and blouses, stacks of dishes, shelves full of porcelain figurines, baskets, starving artist paintings, and other knick-knacks.
Because both shops must be closed by July 27, Ms. Race said most items have been marked down to rock bottom prices, with most adult clothing fetching $2 and children’s clothing going for $1.
Ms. Race said the believed the archdiocese just didn’t want to be seen in the lowly business of running a thrift shop in a place as affluent as the East End. “Everyone is very upset,” she said. “They just feel badly it is being taken from the community.”