Nestled in one corner of her apartment in Tamuning is a quaint rosewood chair, dolled up with a vintage olive-green throw pillow and a glass mosaic vase next to it. Another corner is accentuated with an antique table that is quite a conversation piece.
These were among the rare items A.R. Bognol has purchased from Salvation Army’s Thrift Store.
Bognol, a realtor, is among the local thrift store enthusiasts who regularly explore the aisles at Salvation Army’s retail facility. She visits the thrift store every week, looking for “anything that is good bargain— clothes, shoes, books, furniture, cookwares, jewelry and anything that I can’t find in regular stores.”
She owns a collection of pre-owned signature purses, which she otherwise wouldn’t buy at high-end shops. For Bognol, thrifting is an inexpensive form of retail therapy.
The Thrift Store is the most visible part of The Salvation Army Guam Corps. From Tuesday to Saturday, shoppers fill the store, searching for terrific bargains on clothing, household goods, books, and collectibles. The store has four people on staff and has dedicated volunteers, helping daily to sort donations and stock shelves and racks.
Over the years, thrifting has become trendy on Guam. Prior to Covid, the store attracted fashion-savvy students and tourists from Japan, Korea and the Philippines. High-end collectibles that have been sold at the store included authentic 1970s framed movie posters, framed autographed photos and museum-quality Celadon pottery. Occasionally, people donate new, in-box collectible sneakers.
High fashion has also been spotted at the store with the occasional Prada and other name brand purses, Brooks Brothers menswear, and alligator skin shoes. Recently, WWII relics were donated and are currently being appraised.
The store is 100 percent powered by donations from families and the business community.
The Thrift Store started soon after Super Typhoon Omar hit in 1992. Guam Corps officers then Lieutenants Ted and Debbie Horwood landed and immediately got to work procuring donations to help Guamanians.
Blankets, clothing and essential household goods poured in from all over the U.S. After distributing to the community, the remaining items were stored in a Harmon warehouse. The excess donations started as the seed items for the store to sell. Over time, the store grew and moved to a building across from Onward Beach Resort in Tamuning.
The Thrift Store has since moved to a larger location, formerly the iFit Gym, along Marine Corps Drive. The 5,000-sq. ft. location quickly filled up with a third of the floor space dedicated to properly sorting donations. Drop offs have been limited to Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 10 a.m. to noon. As a safety precaution, the limited times allow for donations to decontaminate in case of Covid.
The floor space doubled and so did the revenues. Under the leadership of former volunteer, now store manager Doris Young, the store continues to thrive.
“When we moved from the Onward location, we asked Macy’s for store fixtures. Racks were also donated by the SM store,” Young said.
“Items that are in the greatest demand are clothing, bedding and homeware. If you look carefully, you’ll find a lot of high-end name brands. Collectors come on a daily basis looking for antique pieces. You can find collectible glassware, dishes, toys and paintings. Some craftspeople purchase bundled supplies as package deals”
Due to the pandemic, the store limits the number of shoppers, who stand in lines outside waiting for their turn to come in.
“I’ve been coming to The Thrift Store for 20 years,” said Evelyn Colata. “I find a lot of things I need here and every day, I’m present.”
The Family Services Center issues clothing and furniture vouchers to families and individuals who are in need. Proceeds from sales help in funding year-round programs that help people with substance abuse, rental and utilities assistance and temporary housing.
Funding also helps with the Guam Corps signature events, the Thanksgiving luncheon and Christmas toy distribution.
Follow the Guam Corps on Instagram and Facebook @salvationarmygu.
C.J. Urquico is the public relations officer and development coordinator at The Salvation Army Guam Corps.