It’s time to celebrate another Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) Thrift Store Anniversary! We can’t believe it’s been five years already. What started out as an experiment has turned into a very successful program for DCHS, thanks to the support from our customers and volunteers.
In 2009, DCHS opened Adoption Center West on Grand Canyon Drive to increase housing for cats available for adoption. Fast forward about nine years and DCHS had made great strides in keeping shelter cat populations low by getting cats into homes faster. Because of these achievements, we were able to accommodate all our feline guests at our main shelter location on Voges Road. Adoption Center West was no longer needed for housing cats but there was still time on our lease. What else could we do with the space?
We knew many non-profit groups have had great success using thrift stores to raise money to support their programs, so we decided we’d do a trial run. We already regularly received more donated pet supplies than we could use at the shelter and were successfully reselling them to the public through the Barkins program. We felt confident the community would continue to donate resalable items for pets and would likely donate other items if requested.
But first, DCHS needed someone to take the lead on this new program and hired two part-time coordinators (myself included) from existing shelter staff who had experience in retail, business management, volunteer coordination, second-hand stores, and a deep understanding of DCHS’s mission. We also hired part-time store clerks and recruited volunteers to create a small but mighty thrift team and we opened to the public on January 19, 2019.
How did we do? According to our 2019 Annual Report, our “experiment” brought in $131,216 in gross revenue. Our goal was $132,000 so we were thrilled! That’s all thanks to our donors for giving really nice resalable items, our shoppers for finding the store and telling their friends and family all about us, and of course our volunteers who helped us figure everything out. Needless to say, we knew this was just the beginning. In just a year, we were already out growing the space!
As our lease was coming to an end in 2019, we signed a lease for a new location at 6904 Watts Road, which was more than three times larger! As we were preparing to move in early 2020, the pandemic began. While the timing was unfortunate, we made the best of it and moved into the new store, opening and adapting to running a retail operation amidst COVID restrictions.
Our new location has brought so much new business. We have built a core group of regular shoppers and welcome new shoppers to the store every day. Donations are pouring in, which helps keep items out of landfills and provides our community with affordable items, including clothing, furniture, décor, pet supplies, and so much more. Sales are strong and continue to grow month by month, year by year. In 2022, not only did we cover the cost of store operations but we generated a profit of over $102,000! This profit goes right back to support the mission of DCHS and is now an important part of the equation in balancing our annual budget.
After just a few years at this new location, we are most definitely, outgrowing our space yet again. We are really excited to be where we are in just five years and we are especially excited to see where we may be in the next five years. In fact, we are already actively working on expanding to a second location. Follow our Facebook page for exciting updates on what’s to come and be a part of our growth. We wouldn’t be here without the amazing support of our community and we only hope to return the favor by helping you help animals with cool thrifted treasures.
Shelbi Bernard is the Supervisor at DCHS Thrift Store.