The Plymouth Thrift Shop has been around so long that the suits and dresses which were in style when it opened are today considered vintage clothing.
Ironically, that vintage clothing is some of the hottest merchandise at the shop, 945 Vt.
It was 35 years ago that the women of Plymouth Congregational Church started the shop, hoping to raise enough money to rebuild the church kitchen after it was severely damaged in a fire. The women accomplished their goal, but along the way they also helped people in the community.
The shop continues to help people today, and the Plymouth congregation will commemorate the shop's anniversary at its worship service on Sunday.
"We're now in our second generation of shoppers," said Ella Mary Yoe, who has been a volunteer at the shop ever since it opened. "We have one older lady who always remarks that if it hadn't been for our shop, she wouldn't have had clothes for her children to go to school."
YOE SAID the shop often provides affordable clothing for the clients of Women's Transitional Care Services, a shelter for victims of abusive domestic relationships.
"Some of those people leave home without anything but the clothes on their backs," she said.
Also, Kansas University students who come from warmer climates often will visit the shop to find an affordable winter coat.
"A lot of foreign students are pointed to us from the Hill. A coat isn't something they can pack and carry, and they might not have any use for one in their country," Yoe said.
"In the fall and at mid-semester, we sell a lot of household items for students who are starting new apartments. And sometimes they bring it back at the end of the year."
And 1950s vintage clothing is always popular, Yoe said, especially if there's a costume party to attend.
THE SHOP officially opened in December 1955 at 1145 Pa. Next it was housed in the Poehler Building, then in a small house on Rhode Island Street and eventually in the old McConnell Lumber Yard, 844 E. 13th. In 1979, the church purchased the house at 945 Vt., which is now the permanent home of the Plymouth Thrift Shop.
From the beginning, the shop operated with the idea of providing clean, wearable clothing at reasonable prices and, secondarily, to provide additional funds for the church budget. The shop has been successful at both.
Over half of the merchandise is priced at less than a dollar, and at least 85 percent of the items are $3 or less. Despite those low prices, the shop had raised $70,000 for church-related activities by 1970. And for the last five years, the shop has met its pledge to raise at least $10,000 annually.
Some of that money has gone abroad to support the church's mission projects, but much of the money is used to help people locally.
IN 1973, THE thrift shop was changed from an operation of the Plymouth Women group to a project of the entire church, and Suzie Hampton was hired as its director. Hampton talked this week about some other ways the shop has changed over the years.
She said the shop no longer accepts clothes that are torn or unclean because "we don't have the manpower to launder or repair items." However, she said, that doesn't mean that people these days are less willing to volunteer their time.
"From the very first minutes they were always looking for volunteers. I thought it was a new problem. But it's more pressing now because women work," she said.
The shop now has more than 60 volunteers, both men and women, some of whom work at least once a week, others of whom work only when a fifth Tuesday appears in a month.
HAMPTON said another difference is that when the shop first opened, the women of Plymouth would have to vote every year whether to continue the project. Yoe offered her thoughts as to why this particular fund-raising project has lasted so long.
"I think it was a project that everyone could participate in, and you didn't have to spend a lot of time on it," she said. "We used to cook dinners, and I find it much easier to go down to the thrift shop than to cook for a lot of people."
The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays; 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursdays; and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays. Special extended hours, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., are held the first Saturday of each month September through May.