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. It enabled Rescued Hearts to open for business in a frugal manner.
The store is small, so for the first few years, most furniture and seasonal items were stored off-premises. By 2015, business was successful enough and donations were flowing in so steadily that added space was desperately needed. The business next door closed and that additional 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 Do We Carry?
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 an attractive manner, for the convenience of customers.
As the name indicates, this is no ordinary thrift store. Customers can buy a used T-shirt for $3, but can also buy a great gift or one-of-a-kind treasure. There is clothing, housewares, home décor, furniture, books, DVDs, jewelry, collectibles, kitchen items, Leanin’ Tree greeting cards, glassware, seasonal items, artwork, and much more.
In addition to the donated goods, a small amount of select new merchandise is purchased for resale, including pet supplies and gifts.
Some of the new products sold include:
- Harnesses and other dog gear: Freedom No-Pull Harnesses; EzyDog Harnesses and backpacks; Bark Appeal mesh harnesses in 3 styles; collars with LED lights, Thundershirts
- Wire crates, ex-pens, and dog gates
- CBD oil products, including Green Gorilla olive oil with hemp; Dog Rescue CBD-infused honey
- Calming products: Happy Traveler, Zuke’s, NaturVet; Pet Remedy diffusers
- Natural chews: Himalayan chews, Natural Pet Company antlers and Tremenda sticks; Twizzies
Dental care chews, liquids, and gels: Whimzees; PetZLife; Oratene; TropiClean; Emerald Pet; Breath-Less Plaque Zapper Powder and chewables
- NaturVet skin and coat products
- Zymox products for ear and skin conditions
- Soft-side pet carriers, including Sherpa bags
- Kong products
- West Paw products, including smart toys
- Outward Hound products
- Several brands of dog and cat beds, including Walking Palm Natural Wool Cat Cave
- Slow feeder dishes
- Dog Rocks (prevent yellowing of grass)
- All For Paws toys (for dogs and cats)
- Dirty Dog floor mats
- Cat Treats: Zuke’s, Emerald Pet
- Cat Dancer interactive toys
There also is new merchandise made by volunteers. This includes doggy diapers and belly bands, beds, tote bags, and tug toys.
New Products for Sale
- T-shirts with Dean Russo animal prints
- T-shirts and jackets with the store paw print logo
- Home décor signs and magnets with animal and rescue themes
Meet Some of Our Team
A key aspect of the business plan was the recruiting of volunteers. A decision was made from 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 such thrift store in the area that has no paid staff.
The store would never have grown to its current level without the volunteers. Some have faithfully worked their weekly shifts for as long as 4 years! Some have increased their hours over time, either in the store, or off-site.
Cathy, who was part of the store even before it opened, took on the job of handling the clothing department. She organized the re-donation of functional but unsellable clothing to several other local non-profits. Currently, that clothing goes to the Women’s Resource Center (professional clothing for women re-entering the workforce), Crawford House (helping homeless veterans), and the Street Church (helping homeless men, women, and children), as well as the Central Seventh-Day Adventist Church homeless outreach.
Clothing is the leading seller for the store most months, and that has required staff dedicated solely to handling clothing, shoes, and accessories. There is now a regular staff of 5 that does that. Cathy, Gigi, Kimberlee, Rhonda, and Teresa have taken on that enormous job.
Several others have stepped up to take responsibility for helping open and close the store, as well as other duties; this has helped take some of the load off of Terra and Linda.
These staffers include Christy (who has a solid background in rescue and fostering; she also handles some of the financial work, and is a passionate advocate for bully breeds and no-kill sheltering), Sheila (who retired from Lucky Dog Rescue, which closed last year after hundreds of successful adoptions), Mindy (who also handles most of the Craigslist work, as well as sewing items such as embroidered tote bags for sale; she also takes appropriate re-donated items to ReStore), and Elizabeth (who also volunteers many hours at the Police Operations Center).
Helen and Linda A. are all-around staffers, doing whatever needs to be done, from putting merchandise out and customer service, to running the register. Danielle is a “floater,” who does such things as window displays and arranging store displays.
Two customer favorites are cash register operators Barbara and Charlotte. They greet everybody who comes in the door and tell them about our mission. Charlotte is also the main person who cuts price tags
Dale and Janine come in occasionally to help, primarily with clothing.
In addition, there are also 2 independent off-site volunteers, Jacki and Mary, who sew doggy diapers and belly bands, dog winter jackets, 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 Lucy, Trinity, Dalilah, Ashley, Faith, Izzy, Caydee, Leo, Buddy, Annie, Smokey, and Radar. 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 targets a special niche in the Colorado Springs area, and is truly “A great place to donate, a fun place to shop.”