Aid Tibet Thrift Store reopens in roomier digs

Owner Steve Drago. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

In the deepest trough of self-isolation during the COVID pandemic, did you find yourself with a lot of downtime and an urge to purge? Did you then have difficulty locating places that would accept your used clothes, books, records, household furnishings? For months now, many of us have been awkwardly cohabiting with piles of still-usable “stuff” in need of a new home, simply because local not-for-profits were overwhelmed with donations in 2020 and ran out of storage space, or didn’t want to deal with the logistics of germ-free handover.

If you are one such, be of good cheer: A local charity with a worthy mission has just moved its secondhand shop into a much larger new space, and it is now open to the public. Best of all, donations are currently being accepted!

The shop in question is the Aid Tibet Thrift Store, which for ten years was housed in the basement of the 875 Route 28 headquarters of the Tibetan Center, a project of Tibetan Charities, Inc. The Tibetan Center’s programs include meditation classes, teachings on Tibetan Buddhism, talks on selected topics, musical and other performances and film screenings.

Advertisement

Located at 623 Route 28, across the road from Steve’s Pizza & Deli and the Oliver Kita Chocolate Studio, the new Thrift Store location is a little closer to Kingston than its former site, with a parking lot with two entrances. “It has more square footage and better access,” says Steve Drago, president of Tibetan Charities. “It even has windows!”

According to Drago, the charity bought up four adjacent stores in the Stony Hollow Run strip mall that had been shuttered for some time, and ripped out the dividing walls between them. If you’re paying attention to the walls and floor rather than the goodies displayed therein, you might notice that the westernmost two of the former stores are painted yellow and the easternmost two paneled with pine, or that there’s a change in the color of the carpet underfoot at one boundary.

But the truth is that there’s just too much else to look at. This Thrift Store is stocked with hand-me-downs that in many cases are nicer than one would see in many antique stores. And, most surprising of all, everything is beautifully organized. Maybe it’s because they only opened their doors on November 5, and there hasn’t been enough time yet for everything to become a hodgepodge. Or maybe it’s because the space is so ample. Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for a particular type of item, you’ll be able to find it and more of its kind all grouped together intuitively in a single display.

Need cutlery? Not only is it all in one place, but knives, forks, spoons and other utensils each have their own niche. There are shelves upon shelves of mugs, glasses, dishes, bowls. Children’s clothing, toys and games have their own area back in one corner. There’s a bookcase full of vintage camera equipment, a big pile of baskets, a space for knitting supplies, rows and rows of furniture. Shelves of vinyl LPs prominently display original-cast albums from old Broadway shows, some of them hard-to-find. Glass cases surrounding the cash register hold some of the more precious items, including exquisite Victorian porcelain Christmas ornaments and a substantial selection of estate jewelry. On the day HV1 visited, we even spotted a rarely seen 1970s pop-culture collectible: a Spiro Agnew wristwatch. Pretty much everything is individually tagged and reasonably priced.

The largest area — nearly two full adjoining stores — is dedicated to clothing, all organized on racks by type of garment and size. Much of it is classic business wear, the sort of professional-looking outfits one might need for a job interview. There are even two try-on rooms, newly constructed along with a handicapped-accessible bathroom as part of the renovation. “Clothing that’s new is in high demand, and furniture in good condition,” Drago says when asked what types of goods tend to fly off the shelves. He relates the tale of a windfall of donated shoes from a store that was going out of business: three or four thousand dollars’ worth, top brands, “all size 13 and all brand-new.” They were snapped up within a matter of days.

Some donations arrive in small batches, but others come by the carload as people clean out the homes and storage units of deceased relatives. “There was this one family from South Carolina who handed us the keys to their storage and said, ‘Take everything,’” Drago recalls. Such big cleanouts sometimes turn up unexpected valuable items, including works of art. “Any art that comes in, we put aside and have it appraised.” One painting, not in the greatest condition and in need of some restoration, turned out to be by Figurative Expressionist Fairfield Porter; the Tibetan Center ended up splitting its $26,000 auction price with the donor.

“All the items that you see are donated,” says Drago. “We are now accepting items in good condition and clean: clothing, furniture, housewares, books, household items.” There’s no need to make an appointment, unless it’s a large load; just show up at the Thrift Store between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., any day of the week.

“We’re completely nonprofit. All profits go to support our charitable work,” Drago adds. That means the Tibetan Center’s cultural and educational offerings, as well as contributions toward an orphanage called the Tibetan Home of Hope and sponsorship of a Tibetan Buddhist nun in exile in Nepal. The organization’s mission includes doing its part to alleviate the suffering of Tibetans living under Chinese occupation: “poverty, lack of basic services and religious oppression,” according to Drago. “Most people are aware of the tragedy. Tibet has been occupied for over 60 years.”

The Aid Tibet Thrift Store is located at 623 Route 28 — technically in the Town of Kingston, though the average local would more likely identify the area as West Hurley. For inquiries, call (845) 383-1774 or e-mail info@tibetancenter.org. Learn more about the Tibetan Center at www.tibetancenter.org.