Shelton church thrift store: A unique shopping experience with bargains

The idea of turning an old church rectory in Shelton into a thrift shop first surfaced in 1995.

The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd was looking for ways to raise funds, and one room and a hallway in the rectory were filled with used clothing and household items for sale and opened to the public for a few hours a week.

The idea was a success, and the Good Stuff Shop thrift store soon expanded its space and hours.

“People like the prices, plus it’s a fun place to come to shop,” said Spence Tonne of Shelton, who runs the thrift store. “It’s relaxing and there’s a lot of atmosphere — it used to be home. It’s not like going to Wal-mart.”

Free coffee is available for shoppers and there’s often homemade treats such as chocolate cake and banana bread as well, baked and donated by customers.

Building dates back to early 1900s

The store occupies a house at 186 Coram Ave. that was built in the early 1900s and once contained the pastor’s living quarters and church offices. The thrift store now fills seven rooms plus the hallways.

Tonne has overseen the store since it first opened. “I never thought I’d be here this long,” she said.

Proceeds from the nonprofit store benefit the church, located in an adjacent historic stone structure at the corner of Coram Avenue and Kneen Street.

“A lot of enjoyment comes from doing this kind of work,” Tonne said. “It benefits the community and it’s outreach. We sell everything at a reasonable price or even give it away.”

Many bargains available

Good bargains may be found at the store in clothing, shoes, toys, household goods, bric-a-brac, books, curtains, linens, pictures and holiday items, according to Tonne.

Customers come in all ages and from all over the region. Most are women. “They are the shoppers,” Tonne said. Many visit regularly.

She is assisted by about a dozen volunteers, including Charlotte Batchelor of Shelton, who has been helping out for 17 years. “I’ve always enjoyed clothing,” Batchelor said while folding some new clothing donations. “I like it here. People are nice.”

Batchelor brings some expertise, having bought and sold vintage clothing in the past.

The store continues to do well but has been impacted by the economy and many new competing thrift and consignment stores, Tonne said.

People new to the area may not be familiar with the Good Stuff Shop, being located in a non-retail area, she said.

Tonne said she grew up in the Midwest wearing used clothing, including hand-me-downs from relatives. “My mom was a big tag sale and garage sale person,” she said. “I still don’t like the feel of new clothes, but prefer the worn-in feel.”

Unique donations

All items sold are donated to the store through parishioners or word-of-mouth. The thrift store has volunteers who can pick up items, and tax-deductible receipts are made available.

There have been some unique donations through the years.

Tonne still remembers an odd item that looked surgical in nature, like synthetic worms. “No one knew what it was,” she said. “They were very weird looking.”

She eventually sold them to a dealer for $10, and insists the dealer got a very good deal.

Some items are put on display and are not for sale.

This includes a 48-star American flag that hangs near the check-out area and about 15 Raggedy Ann dolls, displayed in the same area. Customers occasionally bring in old Raggedy Ann dolls to add to the collection. “People like seeing them,” Tonne said.

An extremely large pen-and-ink drawing of the Last Supper had been on the wall nearby for years, but then a man asked if it was sale. The man said he’d grown up with a Last Supper picture in his dining room and now wanted one for his house.

He later came back later and made a generous offer — $200. Tonne agreed to sell the drawing.

The Good Stuff Shop is open 10 to 5 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (it closes at 4 in the winter). For information call 203-924-8050, ext. 2.