Helping Neighbors: Something's Always New At Pantry's Second Glance Thrift Boutique

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Hunger , Family Pantry of Cape Cod , Food Pantry

From left, Second Glance volunteer Ruth Walicki, manager Carol Chaves, assistant manager Lisa Asci, volunteer Caroline McCartie. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

What happens when you add an element of mystery to shopping – when you never know what you might find?

That’s the way it is at Second Glance Thrift Boutique in West Harwich. Every day the merchandise on the floor is a bit different and it’s always seasonal. And with prices so reasonable, you better not hesitate to purchase what you like. The store even accepts credit cards.

“If you see it, we say buy it, because if you think about it, it’s gone,” says store manager Carol Chaves. “We try to keep the floor fresh and new every day.”

Today a sweeping green velvet cape with Laura Ashley tags is $18. A set of Cuisinart copper pots — six pieces and three covers — is displayed in the front window with a tag for $200.

Second Glance raises money for the Family Pantry of Cape Cod. Every dollar spent at Second Glance is a direct donation to the pantry and decreases the pantry’s dependence on grant writing and fundraising.

This morning the shop is already decorated for Christmas with trees and ornaments. Red, green and elegant black holiday clothing hangs on display racks and mannequins. Christmas carols make the atmosphere even more festive as shoppers fan out looking at clothing in the front of the store and home goods with an emphasis on holiday entertaining and decorating in the back.

“Sales have been going great,” Chaves says. “We have a lot of recurring customers. Many, many thanks to the community for the donations.”

New this year are Chaves’s assistant manager, Lisa Asci, and the hanging art system in the home goods section. This is basically a metal strip running parallel to the ceiling. Artwork can hang here without being nailed to the wall. Chaves now has three male volunteers, up by two from last year, and they assisted in refurbishing this display wall.

This is Second Glance’s fourth Christmas in this, its third location at 265 Main St., West Harwich. Second Glance began in a small space on Cross Street in February 2007, later moved to Harwich Port to a larger space, and then opened here in November 2015. The building was renovated to create a large back room where clothing is sorted. Any clothing with a slight stain is run through a stacked washer and dryer. Other clothing goes through a steaming room where it is ironed. Volunteers sort and price clothing in a large back “processing” room which is furnished with professional fixtures donated by T.J. Maxx.

Initially, some people had reservations about the new location in West Harwich because unlike in Harwich Port, the store would not draw foot traffic. Those fears turned out to be unfounded. This location has ample parking and even draws buses.

One of the great assets here are the super friendly volunteers who cruise the store wearing blue bib aprons. Last year 22 new volunteers joined the team. Caroline McCartie of Harwich, who is arranging the women’s clothing racks today, has worked here only a few weeks. She began volunteering for the pantry’s garden. When the season ended she moved indoors and she works on the food distribution line for three hours Saturday mornings.

“I have so much respect for the organization and what they do,” she says. “I’ve gotten more out of it than I give.”

Ruth Walicki of Harwich, in contrast, has been here for about 12 years, moving with the store from its Cross Street location. She began volunteering on Saturdays only before she retired, and then stepped up her schedule after that.

“I’ve been very fortunate in my life, and I wanted to give back to Harwich,” she says. She loves her customers, co-workers and the merchandise. And “Carol [Chaves] is an awesome boss.”

Has she made friends here?

“Oh my God,” she says. Early on she met two customers from her hometown in Connecticut. As fans of University of Connecticut teams, they were fast friends. With another customer she speaks Polish.

And as for the merchandise? “It’s amazing what comes through this shop,” she says. “You’d swear some stuff is brand new. Everything on the floor is clean, buttons on, nothing torn.”

Some of the merchandise is, in fact, new with tags attached from Talbots or L.L. Bean, for example. The prices are so great, in fact, that you might as well buy a piece of clothing, wear it until you’re sick of it and donate it back to recycle it, Walicki says.

Donors bring their used clothing to the Family Pantry where volunteers do an initial sorting. Children’s clothing is retained there and given away, as is some used clothing. The top quality women’s and men’s clothing is sent to Second Glance.

Second Glance is always looking for volunteers. For more information, stop in to the store during regular shopping hours of Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or call 508-432-0636.

To volunteer online or for information on making donations, please visit www.thefamilypantry.com. Un-upholstered furniture donations need to be approved through Second Glance.

To make a donation to The Chronicle's Helping Neighbors campaign, send a check payable to The Family Pantry, 133 Queen Anne Rd., Harwich, Mass. 02645, with “Helping Neighbors” in the memo line. Donations to the non-profit Family Pantry are tax deductible. The Chronicle will publish a list of donors each week.