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.
Commercial fixtures were obtained at low cost from Craigslist, and that frugal business practice has been in place ever since. The store is small, so larger donations, such as furniture, as well as seasonal items, are stored off-premises. This allows maximum use of the space available, and avoids clutter, for a comfortable shopping experience.
What Do We Carry?
The store is pet-friendly, inviting, and clean.
As the name indicates, this is no ordinary thrift store. Customers can buy a used T-shirt for $2, but they can also buy a great gift or one-of-a-kind treasure!
A key factor has been the recruiting of additional 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.
At first, everybody did everything, but with the growth of the store, people stepped into more specific roles: store clerk, processing donations, promoting the store and our mission, donation pick ups, social media, special events, 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.
In addition to the donated goods, select new merchandise is purchased for resale, including pet supplies and gifts. That is a part of the boutique aspect of this store.
Meet Some of Our Team
The store would never have grown without more volunteers. Some have faithfully worked their weekly shift, some for up to 2 years. Others have been able to increase their hours, either in the store or off-site.
Cathy, who was part of the store even before it opened, became a board member, and was also Volunteer Coordinator. She organized the re-donation of functional but unsellable clothing to several local homeless shelters. In addition to her work at the store, she was a long-term foster for dogs. She recently moved out of state, and stepped down from her position.
Lee was our first volunteer coordinator, and also became a board member. Her skills as a seamstress led her to create dog and cats beds, home-grown catnip toys, tug toys, doggy diapers and belly bands. Many of these are made from recycled fabrics. Her husband also volunteers on projects, with a special flair for woodworking, and selling on eBay.
Megan is the newest member of the board, and brings with her computer expertise that was greatly needed! She handles Craigslist and the e-newsletters. She also grows herbs to sell in the store. Originally coming in just to shop, even though she was new to the idea of rescue, she quickly discovered her passion for helping animals, and became a valuable member of the team.
Other key staff members include Robbyn and Brenda, who help keep the store running smoothly; whether handling the retail operation, or taking care of financial matters. Brenda became Volunteer Coordinator upon Cathy’s departure.
Rescued Hearts Unique Boutique targets a new niche in the Colorado Springs area, and is truly, “A great place to donate, a fun place to shop.”