Secondhand stores grow as tight times create customer surge

Secondhand wares are selling at first-rate speeds across the Central Valley this summer.

While most retailers across the country continue to limp through the recession, thrift stores are seeing a surge in customers and double-digit increases in sales. Two nonprofit-run thrift stores in Modesto even are expanding into new spaces soon.

"It's really, really the economy that's causing this," said Harold Peterson, chief executive officer of Community Hospice. "The big upswing for us started, literally, last October."

The Community Hospice Hope Chest Thrift Store will open its new store, at

4143 McHenry Ave., on Friday. Goodwill has a new store coming, at 3900 Sisk Road in the old Ethan Allen building, in October.

"Our long-term goal was to open another one in Modesto," said Sally Wooden, public relations and development director for Goodwill Industries of San Joaquin Valley Inc. "Our Modesto store is a very busy store for shoppers; we've got new shoppers coming in all the time. Modesto seems to be a very generous community."

Goodwill and Hope Chest report significant sales increases compared with 2008. Hope Chest has seen a 20 percent increase and Goodwill reports a 12 percent increase from this time last year.

They also say shoppers are buying more goods — from clothes to furniture, housewares to accessories.

Shoppers such as Modesto resident Nanette Neiman began frequenting thrift stores last year because of the economy. While in years past she went to Target and Lane Bryant for clothes, she now shops at places such as Hope Chest and Buy-Rite for bargains.

"The prices are so much better," said the 41-year-old mother of two while shopping at Hope Chest. "I get a lot of clothes for my kids. They don't mind because (the clothes) are new to them."

Neiman estimates that she saves 75 percent on clothes by shopping at thrift stores.

Privately run secondhand stores also have done well, with more customers taking advantage of lower prices and deep discounts.

Josie Mingua, a supervisor at Buy-Rite Thrift Store in Modesto, said the store has seen a steady stream of customers this year, particularly first-time shoppers.

"It's everybody now; before it was just a few," Mingua said. "It's been more and more and more every day. I see a lot of new people that we have never had here before and never even knew of a thrift store."

Modesto secondhand and vintage store Remember When on McHenry Avenue has expanded twice in the past year. Owner Kerri Aguiar's shop now takes up the majority of the suites in her shopping complex.

"If I could expand again right now, I would," she said. "A lot of people can't afford the brand names anymore, so they come in for the second-hand."

Longtime thrift store shopper Anita Pacheco has noticed the increase in customers. The 62-year-old Modesto resident has come to Hope Chest at least once a week for years looking for items for her and her grandkids.

"I've even noticed recently some ladies from Del Rio come here after golfing," Pacheco said. "They're looking for designer labels. People from all levels of the economy are coming in."

Pacheco, who lives near the north Modesto Hope Chest, said she is excited about the new, larger store moving in nearby.

The new Hope Chest location, in a free-standing building just south of Pelandale Avenue on McHenry, will be a replacement for the north Modesto location in the Wal-Mart center.

Peterson, the Community Hospice leader, said the organization will shut the existing shop at the end of the year when its lease runs out. The new location has lower overhead and larger space.

The flip side to the surge in shoppers looking for savings is, in some cases, fewer people willing or able to make donations. Nonprofit groups such as Community Hospice and Goodwill rely largely on donations to fill their stores.

While Peterson said Hope Chest donations have held steady, Wooden said donations to the San Joaquin Goodwill store are down 9.9 percent compared with July 2008.

"We've got more shoppers, so we need more donations," she said. "We're not flush with donations right now."

Peterson said he hopes to see an increase in donations, thanks to the new store's larger, more visible donation area.

"The interesting thing about the thrift store business is that we've been cranking along at the same set of numbers for five to 10 years," Peterson said. "Where we've made increasing contributions, through adding new stores and building and infrastructure, is largely where we've made gains. Now we're certainly reaping the benefit of this economy. And so are our shoppers."

Community Hospice Hope Chest and Goodwill Industries are opening new thrift stores in Modesto this year.

Expanding Ways to Save


WHERE: 4143 McHenry Ave. (south of Pelandale Avenue)

WHEN: Grand opening 9 a.m. Friday

WHAT: New 20,000-square-foot store and donation center

EXTRAS: The store will have grand opening festivities all weekend, including raffles and refreshments.

CALL: 578-6300


WHERE: 3900 Sisk Road (former Ethan Allen building)

WHEN: Grand opening Oct. 10

WHAT: New 14,400-square-foot store and donation center

EXTRAS: Goodwill is hiring up to 20 people to work at the new store. Applicants must register beforehand to take part in a pre-screening at the Employment Development Department office in Modesto on Thursday. Register by applying at, or by sending résumés by e-mail to, or fax to 467-0216.

CALL: 466-2311

Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at or 578-2284.