A quick search on Google Maps reveals the plethora of thrift stores here in Harrisonburg. Whether it’s how it originated or its community involvement, every shop has its own unique flair.
Ivy Thrift CO
After rooming together their freshman year, two JMU sophomores founded Ivy Thrift Company. Katja Wisch, a media arts and design and sociology double major, and Giselle Namata, a health sciences major, both co-run the company entirely through Instagram.
“We both got super into thrifting together,” Wisch said. “Since we’re both into different things, we were able to come together over something we both love.”
The entrepreneurs wanted to create a brand around something they both enjoy doing. Before starting their company earlier this year, they considered creating a website. Then they found that Instagram fit their marketing needs.
“It’s a lot harder to let someone know about a website than it is to follow someone on Instagram,” Wisch said.
Since they’re located in Harrisonburg, Ivy Thrift features a $5 discount for JMU students. The shop has versatile styles and prides itself on providing gender-neutral clothing. Each item is selected by the girls; they sell products that can’t be found in a typical retail store, such as rare Tommy Hilfiger pieces and unique color blocked tops.
“We show that what we buy can really be worn by both genders,” Wisch said. “We definitely make sure that we don’t specify the gender in our posts.”
Models for the company are typically friends or people who’ve reached out to Ivy Thrift on social media. JMU students of all genders are regularly featured on their Instagram account. To the duo, it makes their account feel more personal and natural.
“We’re open to anyone reaching out to us and setting up a time,” Namata said. “They essentially get to model at no cost and they get some pictures in exchange for their time.”
Tried and True Thrift
Tried and True Thrift is a local nonprofit managed by Deb and Ken Layman. The thrift store contributes to the Church of the Brethren Global Food Crisis Fund and Mennonite Central Committee Generations HIV/AIDS fund. It’s started contributing to U.S. disaster relief funds through Mennonite churches as well. Through that, it donates extra clothing to local clothing closets and the Blue Ridge Hospice thrift shop every week.
Unlike other thrift stores in the area, Tried and True Thrift has silent auctions that occur almost weekly. In these auctions, people can bid on antique and luxury pieces, such as unique paintings or sculptures. It also often has color sales, meaning items with a specific color are a certain percentage off that day.
Not only does the store benefit the Harrisonburg community and different crisis funds, but it also has volunteer connections with JMU work study.
“We couldn’t do it by ourselves,” Deb said. “I think [students] benefit from being out in the community and you know, just getting to know people they would never talk to otherwise.”
Mercy House Thrift Store
Since 1988, Mercy House has been supporting homeless communities in Harrisonburg. After starting with a simple shelter downtown, it decided to create three different stores where all the proceeds support the needs of the shelter.
Its newest location is called the Mercy House Building Supply and provides construction material. Local homeowners or businesses can donate these materials to people in Harrisonburg who need affordable supplies for other projects. Through this, they recycle and avoid sending unused materials to the landfill.
The Mercy House Thrift Store, located on South High Street, sells anything from gently used kitchenware to full-sized coats. At Mercy House, one could find a variety of books wall to wall that are sold at a fraction of their original price.
Unlike other thrift stores, it also has a boutique that’s located on University Boulevard. Here, there are more luxury items. It’s not hard to find name brands such as Nautica or Ann Taylor at this location.
Shopping at any Mercy House location always provides an opportunity to give back to the community. Mercy House provide jobs for community members in need. Manager Michael DelBiondo says it helps get people out of the shelter by providing an above-average wage and helping people build resumes.
“The Mercy House is truly a local-oriented thrift store,” DelBiondo said. “The shelter actually serves residents of the county and the city of Harrisonburg. The items that are donated to us come from this local area and then the proceeds directly benefit the community.”
Although each thrift store is different, they’re all similar in the fact that Harrisonburg residents could discover a handed down piece for an affordable price.
Contact Leeyah Jackson at email@example.com. For more on culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.