The Mercer Island Thrift Shop Reopens for Donations

April 7, 2022 | by Wendy K. Leigh

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All the euphemisms of spring collide this year at the Mercer Island Thrift Shop: spring forward, spring cleaning, fresh starts, new beginnings. The much-anticipated reopening of donation drop-offs at the Thrift Shop’s physical location fuels that forward movement, coupled with a new store manager and a freshly minted park next door.

Spring Forward

Donation drop-offs have come “back home” after pandemic shutdowns, allowing patrons to once again “drop and shop” in a single location. Drop-off hours four days a week and bins for leaving bagged, non-breakable items anytime make spring cleaning a breeze.

Embracing “out with the old” means plenty of room for “in with the new,” In the most literal sense: many items inside MI Thrift Shop still have tags, donated in brand-new condition by both businesses and individuals.

Sharon Perez, Interim Administrator for Mercer Island Thrift Shop | Photo by Wendy Leigh

High-end designer goods, quality clothing, handbags, books, sports gear, housewares, and toys reflect the generosity of donors, says Sharon Perez, Interim Administrator for the shop during its restructuring phase. “We get many quality items, from vintage to collectible, art and luxury brands. The range is amazing.” The shop offers items at least 30 percent below standard retail prices, and often more, particularly with new clothing.

During the pandemic, the Thrift Shop also started displaying many upmarket items on its website, including expensive, fragile, or specialty items such as rare books, collectibles, and musical instruments. A vintage velvet “hand chair” recently got snapped up at $400, and a 14-karat gold Italian bracelet sold for $575 to a customer in Miami (while they offer shipping, local buyers can buy online and pick up in-person). Other rare items currently available online include an Amiet Vintage Genuine Crocodile Briefcase, vintage German harmonica, and a Hummel Design Reuge music box.

Brick-and-mortar shoppers enjoy a much larger selection, such as bulky items like a toy Black+Decker tool station, dollhouses, and like-new ski boots. Other recent finds include a new Moroccan tagine cooking vessel, bone china cups from England, and a miniature wooden pirate ship. A book nook brims with classics, cookbooks, and a full-color “Game of Thrones” gift book, all curated by volunteer Lola Dean, founder of Island Books. 

Photo by Wendy Leigh

Fresh Starts

Dedicated volunteers keep the place running while gaining work skills, service leadership opportunities, and social connections within the community. Angela, a high school student and volunteer who works three-hour shifts on the floor, says helping at the shop lets her contribute to the island while also collecting extra credit and boosting her resume. Others volunteer through work-study and alternative or court-appointed programs. (The shop is currently looking for more volunteers for morning donation drop-off shifts and afternoon mid-week cashiering slots.)

New manager Lisa Hoecke oversees the staff and volunteers who sort, repair, price, and resell donations, resulting in thousands of tons of materials being recycled, upcycled, and put to good use. Community support for MI Thrift Shop remains strong after almost 50 years of operation, a testament to the chain-of-good loop from, which all islanders benefit. Proceeds from the shop provide vital funding for Mercer Island Youth & Family Services, which makes school-based and mental-health services accessible to Mercer Island residents regardless of age and ability to pay. Shoppers, in turn, benefit from access to high-quality goods at extremely affordable prices.  “[The Mercer Island Thrift Shop] is very beloved in the community, and beyond,” Perez says. “People believe in this mission and want to see the Thrift Shop thrive.”

Photo by Wendy Leigh

The Mercer Island Thrift Shop is located at 7710 SE 34th St. Current donation drop-off hours are Sunday to Thursday, 8 to 11 am, and store hours are Sunday to Thursday, 8 am to 5 pm. Shoppers can stay informed by signing up for news and deals.