Take three women who are passionately involved in animal rescue, add a desire to help others doing the same thing, and what happens? A dream takes flight, and a mission comes to life.
As a forerunner to Rescued Hearts, back in 2011, Linda and Marcy were two of the four founders of St. Paws Thrift Store, a similar concept. As the evaluation team, they got to know nearly every rescue group in the area.
In late 2012, they left that organization. After a very short break, they and Terra decided to launch a new store with a different business model.
Besides being active in rescue and rehabilitation, the three women brought a wide range of experience in the retail world. This was a combination that would prove to be a great asset in launching a store such as this. Knowledge of rescue from the inside gives insight into what groups need, and how best to help. Their personal contacts in the local rescue community were a key to knowing where they wanted to focus their efforts.
Thrift Stores Supporting Animal Rescue
There are many thrift stores around the country that support animal rescue groups and shelters. Some stores are run by a group and fund only themselves. Other stores fund larger numbers of groups that apply for money and are given grants on an as-needed basis.
Still others, such as Cause for Paws in Lincoln, Nebraska, target a smaller number of groups, and give them money regularly. That had been Linda and Marcy’s vision for a long time. When they learned of Cause for Paws, they made a trip there, and met with the founder, Adair Sue Smith-Sturgis. She shared her expertise freely, and was truly an inspiring example. It reinforced their intention to go that direction in this new venture.
A Store is Born
Thus, Rescued Hearts Unique Boutique was born. The building, conveniently located in the heart of Colorado Springs, on Austin Bluffs west of Academy, was remodeled and painted, mostly by the women, 2 husbands and a brother who got “volunteered.” Sue, an experienced rescuer, also joined the organization at this point; eventually leaving to form her own rescue group, The Misfits Dog Rescue.
Commercial fixtures were obtained at low cost from Craigslist, and that frugal business practice has been in place ever since, with a few exceptions of displays that were purchased new.
The store was small, so for the first few years, most furniture and seasonal merchandise were store off-premises. By 2015, business was booming and donations were flowing in so steadily that added space was desperately needed. The frame shop next door closed and that space was leased. Again, 2 husbands (Rik Hoover and Jerry Kraettli) did the majority of the remodeling work, thus saving money on the expansion. Besides adding square footage to the sales floor, it provided much-needed storage space and more space for processing donations.
What Is the Store Like?
The store is pet-friendly, inviting, and well-lit for a pleasant shopping experience. Great effort is made to avoid clutter and arrange merchandise in attractive manner, for the convenience of customers.
What Do We Carry?
As the name indicates, this is no ordinary thrift store. Customers can buy a used T-shirt for $3, but they can also buy a great gift or one-of-a-kind treasure! There is clothing, housewares, home décor, small furniture, books, DVDs, jewelry, collectibles, kitchen items, Leanin’ Tree greeting cards; glassware, seasonal items, artwork, pet supplies, and much more.
In addition to the donated goods, select new merchandise is purchased for sale, including pet supplies, clothing, sympathy cards for the loss of a pet, and gifts. That is a part of the “boutique” aspect of this store.
What are Some of the Product Lines Sold?
Harnesses and other dog gear: Freedom No-Pull Harnesses; EzyDog Harnesses; fashion harnesses that look tie-dyed or with hemp leaves
- Wire crates, ex-pens, and dog gates
- Calming products: Happy Traveler, Zuke’s, NaturVet, PetzLife; Oratene; TropiClean; Emerald Pet; Breath-Less Plaque Zapper power and chews
- NaturVet skin and coat products
- Zymox products for ear and skin conditions
- Soft-side pet carriers, including Sherpa bags
- Kong, including toys and smart toys
- West Paw, including smart toys
- Outward Hound
- Several brands of dog and cat beds, including Walking Palm Natural Wool Cat Cave
- Slow feeder dishes
- Dog Rocks (prevents yellowing of grass)
- All for Paws toys for dogs and cats
- Dirty Dog floor mats that soak up 7X their weight in water
- Cat treats: Zukes and Emerald Pet
- Cat Dancer interactive toys
There is also new merchandise made by volunteers. This includes doggy diapers and belly bands, beds, tote bags, and tug toys.
We also have a good selection of CBD products for dogs and cats (and a few for people). The brands we carry must be made in the US, ideally in Colorado. They are organic, full spectrum products.
We carry oils, treats, salves, and capsules.
Brands include: Green Generation; Petabis Organics; Canna Companion; Charlotte’s Web Paws; CBDDog; CaniBits; Peak Hemp; Holistic Hound, Austin and Kat; Green Gorilla
New Products for Sale
- The Mountain T-shirts with Dean Russo animal prints, as well as wolves and bears by other artists
- Bright handcrafted jackets from Nepal
- T-shirts and jackets with the store paw print logo
- Home décor signs and magnets, many with animal themes
Meet Some of Our Team
A key factor has been the recruiting of volunteers. A decision was made at the beginning to keep the store an all-volunteer enterprise, in order to give away as much money as possible. Rescued Hearts is the ONLY all-volunteer store funding rescue groups in the area.
At first, everybody did everything, but with the growth of the store, people stepped into more specific roles: store clerk, processing donations, clothing crew, researching donations, promoting the store and our mission, donation pickups, social media, and so on. The need for new volunteers with a variety of skills is ongoing. Volunteers range from older students on up to senior citizens.
Many have faithfully worked their weekly 4-hour shift; some for years. Others have been able to increase their hours, either in the store or off-site.
Cathy Z., who was part of the store even before it opened, organized the clothing staff, and has put in untold hours at the store and at home, making the clothing look its best. She set up the re-donation of functional but unsellable clothing to several homeless shelters. Clothing that hasn’t sold in 3 months is donated to the Women’s Resource Center (professional clothing for women re-entering the work force) and Crawford House (helping homeless veterans).
Clothing is the leading seller for the store most months, and requires staff dedicated solely to processing clothing, shoes, and accessories. There is now a regular staff that does that, including GiGi, Teresa, Rhonda, Kimberlee, and Silver.
Several staffers have stepped up to take responsibility for opening and closing the store, which took a lot of the load off of Terra and Linda, particularly when Linda had to step away from daily operations in 2018 for health reasons.
Key staff members include Elizabeth, who not only volunteers at Rescued Hearts 2-3 days a week, but also volunteers 2 days a week at the Police Operations Center. She also has a passion for running and vintage cars. She’s an example of the old saying, “If you want something done, ask the busy person—the others have no time!”
Greg has proved to be a real asset on the retail end of things, having formerly been the manager of the Albertson’s warehouse store. He brings a hefty amount of experience in merchandising and customer service. He’s the bravest man in Colorado Springs, working with a bunch of strong-willed women! The volunteers and customers adore him.
Mindy works 2 days a week, in addition to using her substantial sewing skills to create machine embroidered totes, beds, and such; she also handles Craigslist posts.
Sheila, who retired from running Lucky Dog Rescue works 2 days a week, and is great at educating customers on dog-related issues.
Cathy B. usually works 2 shifts a week, and is also an active volunteer with AARF Adoptable Animal Rescue Force.
Customer favorite Charlotte works the register with her little rescue Bichon, Hannah. She is also the main person who cuts price tags, a time-consuming task.
Suzy does hours of research on collectibles, electronics, and other items likely to be of greater value.
There are other volunteers who faithfully work their shifts, but haven’t been at it as long, who have already proved to be a real asset.
In addition, there is an off-site volunteer, Jacki, who sews doggy diapers and belly bands (our own design), dog coats, beds, and other fabric crafts.
Don’t forget the dogs! Many volunteers bring their dogs to work as greeters. Customers have their favorites and look forward to spending a little time with them. Some of the regulars are Trinity (the 3-legged store manager), Dalilah, Ashley, Hannah, Buddy, Annie, Izzy, Faith, and Caydee. Most are rescues (including puppy mill survivors) and this leads to many conversations with customers about what rescue and rehabilitation is all about.
Rescued Hearts Unique Boutique fills a special niche in the Colorado Springs area and is truly “A great place to donate and a fun place to shop.”