Not your everyday thrift store

Volunteer staff and management gather at the front of the Angel’s Attic showroom June 13. Pictured are Carol and Ernie Conner, Carolyn Reed, Elaine Bowles (cashier), Roger Bowles, Emilie and Eric Goodyear, Dee Reeder, Anthony Lawrence, Jaci Blinzler, (general manager), Dan Spencer (officer and manager) and Dan and Theresa Bacon. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — When you think of a thrift store, what comes to mind? Scuffed racks of dresses or suits, piles of pants or shirts, once neatly folded; shelves or boxes of paperback books; dishes or kitchen utensils and shoes, lots of shoes, often way past their prime. With dedication you might find what you want, but will it fit? Does it have all its buttons? And is it really vintage or just old and worn out? The experience can be rather depressing.

Seated on a curve of N. Broadway right on the border of Kansas City and Gladstone is Angel’s Attic, a community thrift store that’s attracting shoppers and donors from both sides of the Missouri River. As you pull into the parking lot at 6970 N. Broadway, Kansas City, the size of the building is surprising: 22,000 square feet, of which 11,000 sq. ft. is given over to clothing, furniture, books, baby items, games and toys, sheets, comforters and afghans, curtains, kitchen furnishings, including dishes and dish cloths, and a whole lot more. The remainder of the building contains offices, receiving, sorting and stocking, and a meeting/break room for the all-volunteer staff. In the showroom, furniture is arranged in room settings, with pillows, flowers and decorations on tables and desks, suggesting a homelike feel and inspiration to shoppers. Aisles curve gently to entice browsers around or angle to bring different items into view.

One of the first things you’ll see inside is a large red and yellow box on a table with the words, “May We Pray For You?” printed on the front. There are also pens and paper, so prayers can be written and dropped into the slot on the box top.

Angel’s Attic is Catholic-Christian faith-based, and co-founder Jim O’Laughlin is president of Kansas City’s Catholic Radio Network. Dan Spencer, officer and manager, lives in South Overland Park, Kan., but willingly drives almost daily to Angel’s Attic because he loves being there.

Spencer recounted the way the thrift store came into being. “About a year ago,” he said, “Jim and I were talking and all of a sudden he asks what I thought about running a thrift store. I told him I knew nothing about running thrift stores and asked if he did. Jim said, ‘No. Let’s do it.’ And that’s how it began.”

He then made it clear that Angel’s Attic is a free-standing non-profit, not an outreach of Catholic Radio. The store’s corporate name is Divine Mercy Thrift Stores dba Angel’s Attic. They hope to eventually open another store in a different part of Kansas City, or maybe on the Kansas side.

“Angel’s Attic is not your everyday thrift store,” Spencer said. “It’s a hybrid retail establishment, with faith as its ambience. The prayer box has gotten good responses,” he added. “We have a prayer group committee who prays for the requests in the box.”

The two men began scouting around, looking for a building to house a thrift store. O’Laughlin’s vision centered on the northland, Spencer said. At the same time, they were talking to people in the area about their thrift store vision and getting positive feedback. When they found the building on N. Broadway, the inside needed a lot of refurbishing and cleaning to get it ready.

A general manager and go-getter was also needed. Jaci Blinzler, who had worked for several non-profits, one a thrift store, but was looking for something different, received an email from a friend suggesting she check out the soon-to-be Angel’s Attic Community Thrift Store. She did.

“It was a God thing,” she recalled. “When I sat down with Jim and Dan, I thought it would be a good fit for me.” The mission was important she said. “I loved the mission of the thrift store — to help faith-based schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic Christian, with some tuition assistance, teaching materials and partial scholarships to help underwrite learning experiences including World Youth Day for seniors at St. Pius X High School and Catholic seniors at public schools.”

Jaci had her own vision of what the store should be, and Spencer and O’Laughlin were happy to let her take the reins. “It took off,” she said; she took on the job of general manager.

“It was about two and a half months before it was ready,” she said. “Donations started coming in before the inside was complete, and I’m talking lots of donations!”

The Grand Opening was in October 2018. “It was an amazing opening day,” Jaci said. “Other than a bit on Catholic Radio, the advertising was all word of mouth. Friends and family came, and friends of friends of family. We’ve been open eight months, and our revenues are encouraging.”

Spencer agreed. Revenues are encouraging enough for Angels Attic to start fulfilling its mission. Beginning June 29, each week one participating Northland parish with a school will receive 25 percent of one day’s revenues from Angel’s Attic to help the parish’s school.

Jaci said shoppers are drawn to Angel’s Attic by the mission and the attitude of all the volunteer staff of Catholicity, Christianity and joy. Shoppers like the attitude and the mission. They also like that everyday there is a sale. Shoppers are given a sale calendar — for example, every Monday in June is Senior Day, seniors 65+ receive 25 percent off their purchase. Wednesdays in June are Wild and Wonderful: 75 percent off clothing. Everyday has a sale of something.

One of the goals of this community thrift store is to have shoppers join the community. There are three ways of joining, Jaci said. Purchase something; donate goods or cash, or volunteer. There are about 50 volunteers currently — individuals and couples. “They too had a vision of what Angel’s Attic could be and their dedication made it happen,” Jaci said.

Angel’s Attic is open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday. For more information visit www.angelsattic.org or call (816) 216-6153.

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July 19, 2019
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph