In 2009, Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) opened Adoption Center West (ACW) because we needed more cat housing space and an additional adoption outlet. In the decade since, our adoption successes meant the additional space was no longer necessary by the fall of 2018. However, the lease on that space on Grand Canyon Drive did not expire until May 2020 so we decided to pilot a thrift store operation there beginning January 2019.
Why Open a Thrift Store?
As a private, nonprofit shelter, DCHS regularly explores opportunities to generate additional revenue and keep a balanced budget. We found that many other nonprofits, including humane societies, both in Wisconsin and nationally, successfully raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by operating thrift stores. As is the case for many nonprofits, DCHS runs on a very tight budget and needs additional revenue streams in order to maintain and grow the services we are able to provide the people and animals of Dane County and beyond.
Grand Canyon Drive Pilot
We set a goal to generate $100,000 in revenue in the first year of operation. The store on Grand Canyon Drive was very small with only about 1,700 square feet of retail space and 800 square feet of storage and sorting space. With very little advertising and lots of word of mouth efforts, the store quickly took off. Donations flowed in along with shoppers. The community was enthused about donating to and shopping at a thrift store that supports the animals. In our first year, we exceeded our revenue goal by over $25,000!
However, the small size of the store prevented us from accepting larger items such as furniture and limited the quantity and types of items we could sell. In addition, the location of this store was not very visible, was not conducive to walk-in traffic and could be challenging for customers to find. As the lease on this space was nearing its end, we made the decision to begin the search for a larger, more visible location.
Our Current Location on Watts Road
We were thrilled to find and secure a lease on our current location at 6904 Watts Road and took possession in March, 2020. The new location is three times the size of the old store and is directly across the street from the west side Woodman’s grocery store. Thanks to a generous donation, we were able to secure the fixtures needed to turn the space into a well-organized and visually appealing shopping experience. The new space was full of possibilities!
When COVID struck in March, 2020, we made the decision to shut down the store on Grand Canyon Drive and use the time to move from the old store and set up the new store. By May, 2020 we began operating an online shopping option. In June we opened the store for limited hours and shopping by appointment. By July we expanded our hours and opened to the general public without requiring an appointment. As of January, 2021, we expanded our hours again to a full 7-day-per-week schedule.
As the pandemic has continued much longer than any of us expected, we have taken a number of measures to keep our staff, volunteers and customers safe. Masks are required for all staff, volunteers and shoppers. Signs are posted to remind everyone about social distancing. A no-contact digital thermometer is available for staff and volunteers to take their temperatures at the beginning of shifts. There are plexiglass shields at the check out stations and surfaces such as door handles, shopping carts and check out counters are regularly cleaned throughout the day. We also limit the number of people in the store at any given time to 25% of capacity.
There are lots of great reasons to shop at our store, in addition to supporting the great work happening at DCHS. Regular shoppers can take advantage of our Rover’s Rewards card program. Spend at least $10 and get a stamp on your card. Collect 10 stamps and get $10 off your next visit. Purchase a Thrift Store tote bag for $10 and use it every Tuesday to get 10% off whatever you can fit in the bag. Take advantage of weekly clearance sales with specially marked items at 50% off. No matter when you come to the DCHS Thrift Store, there will be deals for you to enjoy!
Second Anniversary and Beyond!
In January, 2021, we celebrated our second anniversary and couldn’t be more pleased with our new store. Sales have doubled compared with the old store and donations continue to flow in. Our small staff is joined by a dedicated group of approximately 30 volunteers to provide excellent customer service and a bright, clean shopping experience. Our regular shoppers followed us from the old store to the new one and our visible location has brought us many new customers who are happy to support the mission of DCHS.
To learn more about the store and items we are able to accept for donation, visit our website's Thrift Store page. To get the most up to date information on unique treasures and special sales, follow us on Facebook. We look forward to welcoming you to the store to shop, to donate or to volunteer!