On a crisp fall morning, shoppers in the foothill town of Mariposa were making their way to the popular Mariposa Mall, ready to find some bargains.
Wait. Mariposa doesn't have a mall. Or does it?
The rural town may not have the kind of mall that most people think of when they think "mall," but there is a place that residents call their shopping mall.
It's the Mariposa SPCA.
Nestled next to gentle rolling hills, the Mariposa SPCA has become well known for more than just a good place to find a good pet. It's also home to the biggest ongoing yard sale in the county.
Jeanette Lozano, shelter manager for the SPCA, said the popular destination for savvy Mariposa shoppers started in 1979, when a woman started rescuing animals and needed some extra income to help take care of those pets.
"She would go to the dump and find stuff that she could sell," Lozano said.
From those humble beginnings, the SPCA has expanded into the place to go when Mariposa residents need anything from a stroller to books to clothes.
"We do pretty well with the sale," Lozano said. "We bring in between $5,000 and $8,000 a month from the sale."
All that money goes to help the animals, who are housed in immaculate surroundings on the grounds. Cats enjoy their own comfortable rooms with beds and toys. Dogs romp in big grassy yards, along with inside kennels to keep them warm in the chilly mountain night air.
"Summer is the big selling time," Lozano said. But any day of the year finds people looking for bargains.
And bargains they do find. The SPCA supplies old grocery bags, and people looking for bargains can stuff as many clothes as will fit into those bags for only $5.
Lozano said some people have left entire estates to the SPCA, including Juanita Moore, who left a house in town to the nonprofit animal organization.
"We have about 200 people a day come through here looking for bargains," Lozano said.
The animals benefit from the proceeds, and Dinah Oppenheim works to get those animals ready for adoption.
For the past eight years, Oppenheim has used her dog training abilities to make sure the dogs that go out for adoption are socialized and have learned some manners.
"We want to make sure that the dogs don't take little old ladies waterskiing," Oppenheim said.
The dogs learn basic lessons, such as "sit" and "down" and not to jump on people.
Oppenheim also spends some time with the cats, making sure the felines are also socialized.
Lozano said the SPCA depends on volunteers to keep the shelter going, and the "Mariposa mall" helps not only the animals, but also the people who shop there.
"We are cheap -- cheaper than almost anyone else," Lozano said. "We have new and used stuff for sale, and it's all in good condition. And our shoppers know that."
The efforts of the volunteers at the SPCA help about 30 animals a month find new homes.
"The money we bring in from the sale helps spay and neuter everything before it goes to a new home," Lozano said.
Not many malls can make that claim.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com