Eighty years ago, the Andover Thrift Shop started with a $50 loan.
Christ Church Andover gave someone that modest amount of money to set up and open the shop. It was designed as a way to help the church.
The plan worked. The shop has survived from decade to decade, now paying for many of the church's projects and donating items to needy people in the community.
The shop on downtown Park Street has become a local mainstay where people can find a variety of treasures — from fur coats to antique china and sometimes even fine jewelry.
"That's part of our charm — you never know what you are going to find and what deals you are going to get," said Missy Blanch, the shop's manager.
Unusual items sometimes emerge at the shop. On one recent day, an antique urinal was being displayed for sale.
Over the years, the shop has seen cultural shifts, including no customer demand for musical records when they were widely available in stores decades ago, to now selling vintage records frequently because they are more difficult to find, Blanch said.
During the pandemic, the shop has made improvements such as a rebuild to its front counter. As the store celebrates its milestone 80th year with a February anniversary, it's giving out eight $10 gift certificates and 80 reusable bags to the first 80 people who spend over $10 this month.
The store has slowly been getting back to normal after being closed between March and August due to the pandemic. It reopened to customers in September. The shop is currently limited to six customers at a time.
Blanch runs the shop with assistant manager Becky Dempsey and about 50 volunteers.
"It's such a nice group of people who give their time, energy and camaraderie," Dempsey said.
Volunteer Elizabeth Blanchard of Andover agreed.
"It’s not only a great volunteer community bringing value to a great community of customers,'' she said of the shop's ability to lure local people. "Our reuse and recycle mission reduces the burden on our natural resources.''
The shop accepts donated items to either stock its shelves or give items to local organizations such as Lazarus House and the MSPCA in Methuen, Blanch said. Volunteers ensure the shelves are packed and the latest donations are on display, Blanch said.
"We have people who shop here every day because (the inventory) changes every day, so they want to get first dibs," Blanch said.
Profits made by the shop go to Christ Church Andover.
"For 80 years, Andover Thrift Shop has not only benefited the ministry and mission of Christ Church,'' said the Rev. Michael Hodges of the church, "but perhaps more importantly, it has provided a supportive community for the staff, volunteers and customers from all walks of life who continue to be drawn to 10 Park St. for quality, affordable items.''