EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in the “I want Alex to work for me” series. If you would like for Alex to spend a day working at your business, send an email with contact information to Daily Light Editor Neal White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I thought I was going to Secondhand Treasures as part of the ongoing series with the Daily Light in which a reporter learns a trade for a day. I am not really into clothing or the retail industry so this wasn’t, I thought, the most exciting assignment I have ever covered. Boy, was I wrong.
On the surface, Secondhand Treasures may appear to be like many other thrift stores. It is located in a quaint older home, adding to the vintage look. Inside, men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, books, electronics, home décor, movies (in both VHS and DVD), music and crafts are sold. There is also the “seasonal” room which has finer crystals and dining ware and antiques along with home décor items that are of the season. Each room of the house has a theme, from children’s clothing to housewares and women’s shoes.
But the real story is the three women who founded and run Secondhand Treasures.
Pat Pratt, Virginia Sevier and Mary Needham met several years ago while working as volunteers to help those in need. They quickly formed a friendship. “But for various reasons,” Sevier said, “we had to discontinue our service there, but we stayed friends.” In fact, they began having garage sales together. It was there, while peddling their ware that the idea was hatched. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a permanent structure in which to sell quality secondhand clothing and materials to people in need?
“We just felt that all the needs of the community were not being met,” Pratt said. There was, she said, much more that could be done to help the community of Waxahachie and the surrounding areas. In fact, Pratt discovered that many of the unmarked donation boxes placed in various parking lots do not give the clothing back to local communities but send the clothing overseas. “How does that help us here?” So, the three very different women decided to pool their talents into one business venture.
Pratt, a local author, writes mysteries with a Christian slant, but she is also a true people-person. She develops strong relationships with the customers and loves talking to each one. Needham is the “ambassador” for the store, constantly hitting garage sales, picking up new things and telling everyone about the store. Virginia Sevier is the resident home decorator for the trio and brings her vast business experience to the group. Having worked in a number of businesses, Sevier currently works with Scarborough Renaissance Festival, which employs more than 800 people per season.
Their business concept was beautifully simplistic: Sell good secondhand merchandise, pay the bills on the business and donate a portion of the proceeds to a cause near and dear to their hearts, Waxahachie Care Food Pantry, a nonprofit organization that helps more than 10,000 residents annually through charitable donations.
This is where the story gets really good. When Mary Needham said of Secondhand Treasures, “It’s not selling a shirt, it’s helping a life,” I truly did not understand. I had watched people wander in and out, picking up admittedly nice articles of clothing for three to five dollars apiece. I even eyeballed a couple pieces of jewelry, making note of the quality versus price. I liked it. But, I mean, come on. We’re selling shirts here, this is what we’re doing. Then, another patron walked in and when she overheard our conversation, she piped in. “After my mother died, this is the only place I was willing to donate her clothing.” At that, her voice cracked as she said, “And I’d like to think that maybe I will see someone walking around in the community wearing my mother’s dress.” In a flash, Pratt was around the counter and giving hugs.
In addition to giving proceeds to Waxahachie Care, Secondhand Treasures also gives vouchers to college students in need, or, through Waxahachie Care, to people whose home burned down or people who might have suffered other major losses. While they also collect canned goods to offer the food pantry, they are proud to give cash to Waxahachie Care. With cash in hand, Waxahachie Care, working with the North Texas Food Bank, is able to go to specific vendors to buy fresh produce and meats for pennies on the dollar, offering fresh, healthier choices to those in need.
Then Mary told me of a woman came in to donate the clothing of her husband who had recently died. Needham had also lost her husband and the two quickly bonded. But it is the story of a woman who was attacked, stabbed and left for dead that really tells the story of this thrift shop and the women who run it. As it turns out, while the woman was recovering, she ventured from home and walked into the arms of one of these three incredibly loving, giving people who, over time, has given this woman the confidence and friendship to venture further and further.
The world, Pat has reminded her, is a good place. And the world, with these three treasures, is a far, far better place. Indeed, they are selling so much more than a shirt.
For more information about Secondhand Treasures, you will find them at 113 N. 77 Highway in Waxahachie. They are open Wednesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.