Bluntly named, Thrift Shop is an indispensable space for many in the Mount Vernon community. For Mount Vernon locals, the shop is a memorized distance from home: a haven of accessibility. Upon entering the store, customers are met with rows of used clothing — women’s clothes on the left side of the room and men’s on the right. At the front of the store, a variety of antiques are neatly displayed, such as vintage candle holders, elegant wristwatches, pocketbooks and jewelry. The plethora of goods here makes it hard to not grab something extra on one’s way out.
Thrift Shop manager Melinda Amheiser describes her customers as a “very eclectic mix.” From elementary schoolers looking for Hawaiian shirts for “Luau weekend,” to people without homes, to Kenyon students searching for racy costume pieces for the annual showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show — the Mount Vernon Thrift Shop serves all.
The Mount Vernon Thrift Shop and its three other locations in Centerburg, Danville and Fredericktown, Ohio are subsidized by Interchurch. Interchurch acts as a coordinator, allocating resources to the various thrift store branches. The not-for-profit has also helped create a more efficient network of community service in the Knox County area, Amheiser explained. In the past, those in need had no central location to seek community support. Now, with the development of Interchurch services, Knox County residents can always rely on receiving resources from the association. “[Interchurch is] a way for us to spread our blessings to more people,” she said. The profits raised from the store’s vintage goods pay for the building, the utilities and the food pantry located in the back of the store.
Amheiser is the only paid employee at the thrift shop; the rest are volunteers. One volunteer said that throughout her time working, she has seen the shop transform. About 10 years ago, the store relocated from Bond Street to its current location on Gambier Street. “We get a lot more clothes now. Business is better,” the volunteer said. Amheiser, who has been a manager for one year and was a volunteer for four years prior, attributes this growth partially to the new location being more accessible to people with disabilities. She mentioned that because many of her customers are senior citizens, this increased level of accessibility significantly increases business.
The store draws in a variety of volunteers. “We’ve had a lot of people that needed to do their community service hours,” Amheiser said. For example, Knox County Learning Center — an organization that helps integrate students ages 18 to 21 into the adult world — brings four student volunteers into the shop every week. “I try to find things that are appropriate to their skills. I have a girl with Down syndrome, so I find things that she can sort,” Amheiser explained. “They love it here.” Nurses from the Knox Technical Center also volunteer at the shop to fulfill their community service requirement.
If students are interested in picking out their next $2 party dress, or simply browsing the aisles for fun accessories, they can find Thrift Shop on 306 West Gambier Street in Mount Vernon. But make sure to bring cash or a checkbook, as the store does not accept credit cards.