WARREN Thrift store offers treasures

The shop increased its sales almost 17 percent this year.
WARREN -- For years, the Animal Welfare League augmented its income with weekend garage sales from donated items.
Then league volunteers ran into a problem -- people kept donating, but there was no place to put it all.
So in 1995, they opened The Menagerie Thrift & amp; Gift Shoppe at North Park and Atlantic Avenues.
The building's unassuming white stucco exterior masks the treasures hidden inside: blue jeans for $1; flashy earrings and pins for anything from 25 cents to $5; records for 50 cents; $40 for a working electronic word processor.
"It's like shopping in a catalog," league president Barbara Busko said. "Items you won't find anywhere else, you'll find there."
An electronic bell sounds every time a customer walks in. Patrons browse while music from an oldies station tinkles in the background.
What's there: Items are clean and neatly arranged on shelves and in display cases. One section has clothes, another dishes and other kitchen utensils. Toys, books, tools, even candles and candleholders are for sale.
Everything in the store is donated, Busko said. Some of the more unusual donations included an 1853 organ made by Eastlake and a 1920s stove in mint condition.
"We get wonderful, wonderful things there in the store," Busko said.
All profits go to the Animal Welfare League's shelter and programs. This year's profits increased almost 17 percent, or $12,122.38, over last year's, according to the group's newsletter. Busko said the money generated by the store amounts to one-fourth of the league's budget.
She credits most of the growth last year to increased advertising.
The staff: Most of the store's staff members are volunteers.
Claudia Bancroft of Mecca Township usually works at the shop one day a week.
"I love meeting people and I love animals," she said while trying on a pair of blue slip-on shoes. She laughed, and pointed to her feet. "I'm probably going to buy some of our own merchandise. I've been looking for shoes like these for a long time."
She said the most interesting aspect of the shop is not the various items brought in, but the customers.
"It's not a dull, routine job," she said. "You get to meet people -- unique people -- all the time. I love to meet people."
The menagerie is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The league asks only that donated items are in good condition. All donations are tax-deductible, Busko said.

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