Story written by Breyanah Graham.
COLUMBIA – There aren’t many places where you can find a box with free items, such as a glass with the Playgirl logo, a lawn mower, a vintage sweater, a toddler swing, and an ’80s watch in one location.
But all these items are at Tiger Town Treasures, a thrift store in Columbia. Whether it is for buying, selling, exchanging or donating goods, Tiger Town Treasures offers a valuable service for many residents.
Thrift stores, like the one Connie Furlong manages, have a variety of merchandise for discounted prices. For people who are trying to find ways to adapt to difficult financial situations, thrift shopping offers goods that might not normally be affordable at retail shops.
When setting her prices at Tiger Town Treasures, Furlong said that she “makes sure that I keep ‘em low so people can afford them.”
Thrift shopping has becoming a fad and hobby for individual hoping to stretch their budgets or people earning minimum wage income.
“Minimum wage is not a living wage,” said Angela Hirsh, the Community Services director at Central Missouri Community Action.
Hirsh said that the average cost for meeting basic needs of a family of three in Boone County is $42,000, which minimum wage would not provide.
Such a limited budget does make doing essential tasks, such as buying clothing at retail prices, hard for people who make minimum wage.
For example, the retail price of jeans can start at $12.99 and go higher. However, at local thrift stores such as Goodwill, pants only cost $5.99.
For many low-income people in the community, Tiger Town Treasures is the place to get the goods they need to survive.
“It’s been really helpful. It is my saving grace. I’ve been here when I didn’t have two pennies to rub together,” said Glenn Plotner, a disabled veteran, who is a familiar face at the shop.
The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops reports that resale businesses, which include both thrift shops and consignment stores, represent one of the fastest–growing segments of the retail industry.
Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, which studies bargain shopping trends, said “the economy is what is making the resale business industry grow.”
As a result, this industry is leading many consumers away from malls and drawing them to resale shops such as Furlong’s. Research from The National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops shows that about 16-18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store shop in a year. In the same time, data shows that only 1.4 percent of Americans will shop in factory outlet malls, which is a noticeable difference compared to thrift stores.
“There is always a need,” she said. “I have people who come in here that live in their car. I try to help them out — drug addicts, rehabs and veterans.”
Based on the customers she sees in her shop and in the neighborhood, Furlong said: “There are a lot of poor people in this town and in this neighborhood. They come in here asking for a bargain on things they need. I try to help as much as I can, but I still have to make money to keep the shop open.”
Tiger Town Treasures is not only a valuable resource for people looking to buy discounted items, but also a safe haven for low-income individuals looking to boost their income.
“People come in looking for odd jobs all the time,” Furlong said. “They tell me they just need a little money for gas, and usually I have a job I can give them to do.” Furlong said.
Furlong’s shop also offers consignment sales so that people can earn money for unwanted to unneeded items.
Earning $1.50 here and there doesn’t seem like much, but it starts to add up quickly, especially for low-income individuals who don’t have anything else.
“At the end of the month when money is gone after I pay rent and everything else, I’ll bring in something that I don’t really need and Connie will give me some money for it,” Plotner said. “It helps a lot, even if it’s just a little.”