by Susan W. Pidgeon
Those of you who have enjoyed Closet Treasures Thrift Store over the years will be sad to read that it will be closing the end of May due to the high cost of rent. If you know of any place willing to donate a space or offer a low rent option, please contact Mr. Henry Meeuwse at James Island Presbyterian.
Mr. Don, the manager, is a good man and he has a wonderful staff that really have helped the community a lot through the years. I, for one, am very sad to see it go. I cried a boatload of tears after this interview. I worry for Mr. Don and his staff and where will they work. I worry for them emotionally as well as financially. As Mr. Don says, “we do a lot more here than sell clothes”. He is a wise man, that Mr. Don.
Below you will find my recent interview with him.
Susan Hello I am Susan Pidgeon with the James Island Bugle and I am here interviewing Mr. Don at Closet Treasures. Mr. Don what is your full name and your position? Are you the manager here?
Mr. Don Yes ma’am, I am the manager here. My full name is Donald E. Almond, like the nut.
Susan How long has Closet Treasures been in business?
Mr. Don 26 years.
Susan Now you just moved over here to this location a few years ago is that correct?
Mr. Don Yes we have been in this location for 2 years.
Susan How did Closet Treasures get started?
Mr. Don There were some members of James Island Presbyterian Church, that got together and set it up and called Mr. Henry to come run it. He’s increased it and it has a lot more things besides this…there’s a counseling center and they support a lot of different things…different missions, and they do a lot of good work.
Susan So do the proceeds from here go to that directly?
Mr. Don Yes, the proceeds go back into the Foundation.
Susan So they have a Board and everything?
Mr. Don They have a Board and they got together and they decided it’s really costing too much.
Susan How many people currently work here? Are they all senior citizens?
Mr. Don No…let’s see…we have 1…2…3 full time…me and two others…we have several volunteers. At various times, like we had one lady, Mrs. Elsey, who was a member of that church. She volunteers a day and a half. She has really been good and her husband was on the Board that started this place…and it’s been going 26 years.
Susan You are known for helping those in need. How often does that happen? Do people come in here once a week? Once a month? I know I have sent people over here…knowing they needed shoes or a suit for an interview to get a job…and I knew you would help them.
Mr. Don That happens real often. In fact, we give away more than we sell. It’s definitely been a mission. Lots of things going on here besides selling clothes.
Susan Any stories you care to share about helping others?
Mr. Don Well there is one that is close to my heart. A man came in here several months ago. He has done community work here several times. He has been in trouble at school, but he came by and wanted to thank me, and Closet Treasures and the other people who work here for helping him get straight in life. He said he went back to school, he got his GED, he had a job, no drugs. no drinking, and he was so happy. That means a whole lot. That happens over and over, people come in here daily saying how sad they are we are closing…been doing lots of hugging and crying.
Susan What’s the most unusual thing that’s ever been donated through the years?
Mr. Don A set of false teeth with gold in them.
Susan (Intense Laughter) Whoo…I gotta write that one down.
Mr. Don We have had people bring their garbage…they donated their garbage. Sometime or another, we probably have had one of just about everything that has ever been made come through here.
Susan You are so cute. What’s the most expensive or generous donation ever donated? Was there ever like a grand piano donated or something so super duper you just couldn’t believe the people were giving it to you?
Mr. Don Well, we get an organ now and then.They have had in the past, before I came here, they have had some high dollar items. One time a dining room suite we sold for…I don’t remember exactly but…somewhere around $1000.
Susan How often do you get donations?
Mr. Don Daily. Every day. All. Day. Long.
Susan Now I see that you have a van out front…is that for picking up donations?
Mr. Don Some of that, but mostly I drive that back and forth to work. They were kind enough to get that for me. Someone donated that. So that’s a big donation.
Susan Let’s say a big ticket item comes in here. Do you research the value of things before you price them ….or do you just wing it and put what you think it might be worth…or what someone might be willing to pay for it?
Mr. Don We do some research. Mr. Henry can do it on his phone…and we have one lady who works here and can use her phone, looks up things for us.
Susan Do you have any funny stories you want to share?
Mr. Don I sell stuff to people almost everyday. People who come in here we laugh and have a good time. People love this place…and that’s part of it.
Susan I know I have been in here a lot through the years…I sure am gonna miss you.
I hear through the grapevine that the cost of rent is forcing you to close. When will you be closing?
Mr. Don The last day of May…the 27th it falls on, I believe.
Susan Do you have people that are gonna help you get everything out of here?
Mr. Don Yes ma’am, we working on that already.
Susan You have volunteers from the church?
Mr. Don We will have volunteers from the church. There was a great big bunch that helped us move over here. They moved it all in one day. Some of them had vehicles. It is a great church that helps out.
Susan Now, I know you are kinda looking for another place…what do you need in a new location? Does it need to be a certain amount of square feet…or…I know low rent obviously…how much room do you need?
Mr. Don At this point, I don’t know if they would take one if they found one. Everything is going towards closing right now. Course, things could change…we have another month.
Susan So it’s up to the Foundation?
Mr. Don Oh yes. Myself or the other help…you know, we are not involved in the decision making. We just try to keep the place going.
Susan Well now, if someone thinks that they have a suitable location they could contact Mr. Henry Meeuwse at James Island Presbyterian?
Mr. Don You can just ask for Mr. Henry…they will know who it is when you call.
Susan Well thank you for all you have been doing for James Island Mr. Don. I sure will miss you.
Mr. Don Well I sure will miss being here. In a lot of ways…I tell them this story…I am gonna keep that van…and I am gonna put me a sign on it…and I am gonna come out in the parking lot every day…”Stopped by for your prayers, your hugs, advice and counseling”…I am gonna put a tip jar in the back.
Susan (intense laughter)
Mr. Don I am gonna keep half the money and donate the other half to the church.
Susan You sure are a mess.
Mr. Don They really have been good to me…just like that van is…I feel like…they just go that…somebody donated it and Mr Henry let me have that van. And I drive it back and forth to work…and I drive it to church. I go to James Island Baptist. People come put stuff in it they donate…and I pick up sometimes and haul stuff sometimes…well it’s been a big blessing. We have made a lot of friends here and people every day…I don’t know how many times a day they come to me with tears in their eyes…and give me a hug and a handshake…tell me how much they appreciated this place. It’s been a good place.
Susan It has been a good place, and you have done a lot for the community and I hate to see it close. I really do.
Mr. Don Well there comes a time when everything has to end.
Susan W. Pidgeon, MFA is the owner of The Studio Art Center on Fort Johnson Rd where she teaches private lessons and art classes to adults and children. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2001 and has been teaching ever since. She has taught for the City of Charleston and Charleston County as well as The Artists Loft in Mt. Pleasant. She lives on and loves James Island. You can reach her at (854)202-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find her at www.thestudioartcenter.com or her Yelp/FB/Twitter or Instagram pages as well.