The Extraordinary Contributions of the Ridgefield Thrift Shop

A champion of sustainability, philanthropy and of course a great deal

The Ridgefield Thrift Shop is not your typical thrift store. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. Operating more as an intimate boutique than a thrift store, complete with merchandised displays that reflect the current season, this local gem appeals to donors, volunteers, and anyone who loves a great deal.

In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the shop also prides itself on sustainability within several facets, and is extremely active philanthropically within the community.

Operating 100% as a non-profit organization and run solely by volunteers (some of whom have been a part of the RTS family for 40+ years), every penny after business expenses are covered goes to local charities.

President of the Board Jennifer Mitchell explained the mission of RTS is to “support local non-profit organizations through recycling, repurposing, and reselling generously donated goods,” all while providing the opportunity to purchase affordable, and truly unique, merchandise. 

“Whether something is $100, $10, or $1, there is something for everyone,” she emphasized.

The Ridgefield Thrift Shop was incorporated in 1946 as an independent non-profit organization chartered to sell donated goods to raise money for other charitable organizations, all in support of Ridgefield residents. As the shop grew, the mission remained the same. Now, there are over 100 volunteers that work diligently to run RTS efficiently.

“We try to do as much as we can not to contribute to landfills,” Mitchell said. In line with several of its sustainability efforts, the shop works closely with ACR Trading, a long-standing clothing recycling company which picks up any clothing that can’t go on the sales floor. “Then, what we can’t sell on the floor relating to housewares, we donate to goodwill,” Mitchell added.

The donation station is located in the back of the shop, where everything is neatly labeled and organized, making the process smooth and efficient for donors. From clothes and linens to housewares, artwork, and books, donors are welcome to bring anything they no longer use.

“We have a lot of regulars,” Mitchell said. “There are people who come in weekly to donate. The store wouldn’t run without our generous donors,” she added.

The store also wouldn’t be what it is without its volunteers, who undergo a four-part training program which outlines expectations of their duties from learning how to price women and men’s clothing to shadowing veteran volunteers.

The shop boasts numerous accomplishments from volunteers to donors and beyond. In 2022, the shop was able to give grants to 81 non-profits, and even awarded a handful of scholarships to students. Local non-profits can apply for an RTS grant during a designated time period (found on their website) in order to be considered. Past grants have been awarded to recipients including ACT of Connecticut, Woodcock Nature Center, Angel of Ridgefield, Family & Children’s Aid, and more.

The finance committee of 5 members is made up of the President, Treasurer, Finance Chair and two RTS Members who review, prioritize and suggest funding to the RTS Board and then membership for approval.

All in all, the space is vast — 10,000 square feet in total — 5,000 on the main floor and 5,000 in the basement. The basement is almost another store, each section categorized (just like it is on the main floor) by children’s clothes, Christmas decorations, and designer goods among designated departments that select members and volunteers are the head of.

The shop also holds online auctions for their higher-valued items, a concept that came about during Covid when volunteers couldn’t work and customers couldn’t physically come into the store. Held through the RTS website every Wednesday, higher-valued items, like a 14K Gold necklace, gets auctioned off. 

In addition to the online auctions, the shop also sends out a newsletter every Tuesday to their list of 2,000 subscribers (and growing), letting them know anything new that may be of interest coming to the shop.

“We have one volunteer who takes all of our Vera Bradley bags home to wash, iron, and stuff. That’s the type of thing we’ll send out in the newsletter, letting customers know about a coordinated or special-themed happening.”

The entire behind-the-scenes process seems to run like a well-oiled machine, seemingly becoming more efficient as the years go on and the processes become more streamlined. 

“It is quite a production, but there is a method to our madness,” Mitchell says.

The shop is open to the public Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 12-4 pm. Donations can be made Monday-Saturday 9 am-4 pm.

The RTS team concludes the biggest impact made is the financial support provided to local non-profits through the donations of residents.

In addition, RTS is an integral part of the Ridgefield High School Annual Business Symposium, has partnered with RHS for an intern program, and works with a teen volunteer program that partners with the National Charity League and the National Honors Society at RHS.

Operating 100% as a non-profit organization and run solely by volunteers (some of whom have been a part of the RTS family for 40+ years), every penny after business expenses are covered goes to local charities.

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