By Claudie Benjamin
The Goodwill store that opened at 157 W. 72nd Street in 2013 highlights a curated concept first piloted at an earlier Goodwill shop at 217 West 79th Street.
The curated look? Mostly gone is the old-time jumble, catch as catch can style thrift shop. The window display encourages shoppers to be creative in finding personal touches, and accessories vintage or new, that match sustainability eco-recycling goals with style. Sometimes, a pair of recognizable status label sunglasses or knockoff is highlighted. Store staffers pick out colors and styles with unexpected accessories that might elicit questions of the wearer. “That’s so wonderful. Where did you get that?”
Pots, pans, dishes and picture frames are sold along with other household goods on the second floor. “The reward is in the search, the proverbial “treasure hunt”” says Regional Manager Michael Feinman. “Shopping at Goodwill is a fun experience, whether searching for an affordable warm sweater, or snagging a great vintage cardigan, our many customers make stopping by a part of their daily routine.”
Then, of course, for many people there’s the goodwill part of the equation that rewards the shopper who knows that in purchasing an item for themselves they are also contributing to improving someone else’s life. This community service aspect also rings true for many of those employed in the Goodwill stores. “I love working at Goodwill because of the broad impact it has on the communities we serve. Sales proceeds from Goodwill stores fund our employment services for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Knowing that what we do every day contributes to the vision of Goodwill NYNJ of breaking employment barriers and creating opportunities for all is very empowering.” says Michael. Goodwill Industries, like hospital thrift shops and Housing Works count community service as an integral part of their mission and business plan.
Jose Medellin, Director of Communications at Goodwill NYNJ, recently described the history and mission of the non-profit agency. The first Goodwill in New York was founded in Brooklyn on February 13, 1915. Its founders trained people who were poor or disabled to mend the clothes and repair the household items they collected in affluent neighborhoods. Instead of receiving charity, people in need sold those goods to earn a living, giving birth locally to the philosophy of retail stores funding services for the community.
Goodwill’s beginnings in Brooklyn were such a success that the nationwide movement, started by Reverend Edgar J. Helms in Boston in 1902, got its name from New York. Today, the national organization, Goodwill Industries International, comprises 155 autonomous Goodwill agencies in the U.S. and Canada and 13 affiliate organizations internationally.
Goodwill Industries of Greater NY and Northern NJ (Goodwill NYNJ) operates the 72nd Street store and 27 other locations in the NYC metropolitan region, including retail thrift stores, two outlets, and three attended donation centers at the 10 most Northern NJ counties, LI, the Hudson Valley and the capital region of NY.
Goodwill NYNJ provides job placement, training, on-the-job coaching, and retention services for people with disabilities and those who are unemployed. The nonprofit organization helps people get jobs outside Goodwill stores at hospitals, tech and accounting firms, and NYC agencies. In addition, Goodwill NYNJ’s behavioral health services help individuals with mental illness stay healthy and on their jobs, out of hospitals due to psychiatric admissions, avoid isolation and maintain connection to family and their community.
Business appears to be brisk at the 72nd Street location. Today, big sellers at this time in the thrift shop, like among other retailers are comfortable clothes. Certain items like worn and torn denim, vintage denim always have the potential for recycling and upcycling with patches, pins and bling.
“While a new movement in sustainable fashion is trying to make changes to the heavy pollution caused by the fashion industry, Goodwill has been a sustainable fashion powerhouse for 106 years,” says Jose. “Just in time for spring cleaning! Drop your donations at the Goodwill store and get a tax receipt for your donation. In 2019, Goodwill NYNJ helped people to repurpose over 43 million pounds of pre-owned clothing and household goods successfully diverting them from the landfills.”
Customers can also purchase items online on Goodwill’s digital platform ShopGoodwill. “During the pandemic, our online business has grown but, since the treasure hunt is such an important part of thrift shopping, customers really appreciate being able to come into the store, wearing a facemask or covering, to shop in a safe environment,” says Michael.