The following are draft proposals for the thrift shop


Charity shop

From Wikipedia

A charity shop (UK), thrift store (US) or op shop (Australia/NZ, from opportunity shop) is a retail establishment operated by a charitable organization for the purpose of fundraising. Charity shops are a type of social enterprise. They usually sell second-hand goods donated by members of the public, and are often staffed by volunteers. Because the items for sale were obtained for free, they can be sold at very low prices. All the profits from the sales go towards the charity, apart from the costs for overheads such as lighting, electricity and the lease.

Charity shops are often popular with the poor and with college students on a fixed income, but they are also popular with various subcultures. For example, clothing from charity stores was often modified by early punk rockers. In the United States shopping at a thrift store has become popular enough to earn a slang term, thrifting.

Some thrift stores also sell a limited range of new goods which may have some connection with the cause the charity supports. Oxfam stores, for example, sell fair trade food and crafts. Other stores may sell new Halloween supplies and decorations where old vintage clothes are popular for use as costumes. Some stores specialize in selling books, music, or bridalwear.

The first charity shop in the United Kingdom was established by Oxfam in Broad Street, Oxford in 1948. Oxfam has the largest number of charity shops in the UK with over 800 stores. Many of the Oxfam shops also sell books, and the organization now operate over 70 specialist Oxfam Bookshops throughout the United Kingdom, making them the largest retailer of second-hand books in Britain. Many local hospices also operate charity shops to raise funds.

overarching ideas to incorporate and build from

To provide a long term cooperative economic business for radical / progressive groups that

  • provides fund to grassroots groups/projects that have trouble raising money due to subject of their work
  • builds cooperative work model framework for economic self sufficiency for the long term
  • provides a way to interact with the general public about ideas: gets anarchist ideas out of the activist ghetto to share with a general population that hasn’t been exposed to them
  • shows a sustainable model that can be replicated by people in other parts of the country to fit their needs and communities
  • recycles from the waste of over-consumption in our society
  • sparks the idea to build other longterm counter-culture institutions with sold financial bases (we still live in a capitalist system)

potential programs

  • operate thrift store: regular hours or building to regular hours
  • staff with
    • core volunteers – people who come for a regularly scheduled shift (ex: like monkeywrench book)
    • temporary volunteers- those who come for a small amount of time (one day or two days) because their organization is benefiting from it.
  • separate better items for antique section and online sale i.e. ebay or website
  • free store: have section of dead items or things not worth charging for
  • have taco/hot dog stand out front: local vendor from community
  • have free literature available on various subjects: know your rights, where to get food stamps, anarchism etc
  • could have core of 2-4 groups who regularly benefit and have rotation of other groups that could benefit
    • (example: liberal group like Save Our Springs) for a period like one month:”group of the month”
      • they bring in new volunteers, spread the word , access to more donations of merchandise, give $$
  • develop programs to give skills/jobs to traditionally marginalized people: i.e. like goodwill/salvation army
  • let volunteers work off their community service hours
  • solicit donations for projects
  • have workshops for public: i.e know your rights, specific issues
  • have tabling space for groups

steps to take

  • gather information on how to run a thrift shop[
  • develop concept and meet with local activist or interested community to see value of and gain interest in project
  • find potential space
    • ideally old, vacant storefront, high traffic, low income area, 3-5k sq. ft., low price
  • develop cooperative model: incorporating volunteer and paid staff
  • develop mission, vision statements and framework (to include dual power or “survival programs pending revolution”
  • develop clear decision making process and accountability
  • develop guidelines of respect (internal and for customers)
  • identify good neighborhoods to target for donations
  • design and circulate flyers in neighborhoods: to solicit donations and to get customers
  • circulate memos on progressive/liberal/grassroots list serves/forums calling for donations of materials/volunteers
  • identify groups/individuals sympathetic to store
  • identify potential groups that could benefit from it:
    • resistencia
    • radical enceuntro
    • PODER
    • inside books
    • indymedia
    • rhizome collective
    • radio station
    • youth liberation network
    • anarchist black cross network
    • groups outside our activist experience (local? mostly local, one regional? one national?)
  • develop benefit program: to bring more groups in
  • take out ads in thrifty nickel/greensheet
  • get a snappy name
  • incorporate as a non-profit
  • apply for 501 c iii status? or get fiscal sponsor
  • find storage space for merchandise
  • identify antique dealers that will donate merch regularly
  • decide how net income could be disbursed

potential core co-organizers(co-staff)

potential volunteers/interns

  • primary groups who benefit from the store
  • other groups who can benefit from it
  • activist circles
  • volunteer circles: i.e. united way, volunteers of america etc. that may refer people
  • local universities

identified potential sources of funding

  • store sales: regular and boutique (antiques)
  • internet sales
  • donations

break down of major components

  • circulate flyers/info about store to get donations, volunteers, donations and customers
  • on certain days drive out and pick up merchandise
  • sort merchandise: clean clothes , minor repairs throw away trash
  • price merchandise
  • hang up clothes , restock shelves with newer stuff
  • markdown old stock when necessary
  • straighten and merchandise store
  • clean store regularly
  • answer phones
  • put stuff on internet
  • be pleasant to people

materials needed to get project started (dream list) see also Budget

all figures are estimates

  • late model box truck or large cargo van $2,500-3000
  • telephones: cell and landline $200
  • cash register(s) $500
  • computers $600-800
  • hangers $100-200
  • clothing racks $1,000-1,500
  • shelving units $1,000-1,500
  • display cases $500
  • sales tags $100
  • credit card machine $500
  • storage space: until we have enough merchandise to open $300
  • washers / dryers; to clean merch $1,000
  • sale guns: to mark items $200
  • basic tool kit $100
  • small electrical supplies(sockets, cords, plugs): to replace on small electrics $100

budget (18 months)

all figures are estimates per month

  • store front rent $1,000-1,500
  • secretariat/staff $500-1000
  • phones: cell/landline/ internet service $200
  • truck maintenance $50
  • truck gas $200-300
  • flyers $100
  • computer maintenance $20
  • office/store supplies $50
  • credit card machine rental $50
  • credit card fees (variable) $50-200
  • storage space rental $50-100

similar organizations financials for comparison

this was from florida thrift store:

I managed an upscale thrift shop whose profits benefited the local humane society. When I was hired, their net profits were $17K for the year 2001 and it was a 1,900 sq. ft. dump in a little strip mall.We remodeled the first month and did see an improvement in sales. In Dec. 2003, we moved to a 4,000 sq. ft. building in a prime location.The first 6 months of 2004, the shop NETTED $40K.

more resources:

good discussion page about opening one


(scott’s list)

  • low overhead
  • cooperatively run for mutual benefit of communites
  • ‘free’ large pool of merchandise
  • experience running store
  • provides low income items accessible to those who need them
  • creates long term economic engine/models for change
  • satisfying
  • believe it is necessary work
  • challenging on many fronts
  • many variables
  • involves working with people
  • educational element
  • ego
  • lifestyle
  • freedom
  • value work
  • have to spend a lot of time building it
  • can I make money and not ‘lose my ass’
  • money
  • instability
  • fear of commitment
  • wear on my psychology



These are the basic needs for start-up and running the thrift-shop cooperative:

  • water services
    • bathrooms
    • washing clothes
  • electric services
    • drying clothes
    • lighting
    • AC
    • Heat
    • credit purchasing system
    • computer terminals for in-store bidding on items
  • waste management
  • access
    • bicycle parking
    • car parking
    • walk-to
    • bus routes nearby


To establish worker-owned cooperative status what do we need to know about:

  • Texas law
  • U.S. law
  • Law on donations and donation receipts


Profits are those funds left over after expenses (for expenses see Budget. Profits will be split into volunteer funds, community support, and infrastructural reinvestment. Here I use a 10-65-25 split as an example of how this might work.

  • 10% of the profits are distributed to volunteers who have volunteered 2 or more hours per week on average over the year
  • 65% of profits are distributed to the community. Some ideas for these funds are:
    • funding art, music, or language classes for local elementary school
    • legal support for community
    • infrastructure grants
    • education grants
  • 25% of profits are reserved for cooperative infrastructure
    • start-up collateral for new coops
    • health-care funds for paid volunteers and long term volunteer
    • operating costs during hard times


We will sell donated items both on the floor of our store and over the Web.

  • We need to set up a credit buying system (ultimately to be run through our cooperative credit union).
  • We need to set up our own web-bidding system to auction items in our store
    • inside the store we need at least 2 Web accessible only terminals allowing for in-store bidding (not for browsing)
    • Donated items need to be donated, cleaned, repaired, and stocked:
  • We need to make it known that we are accepting donations
    • advertisements
    • via local media sources
    • word of mouth
    • flyers
    • posters
  • We need to be able to pick up large items
    • purchase of a large truck (ideally one that is easy to work on)
    • Designated pick-up and drop-off times for donations
  • We need to be able to recycle, reuse, and discard unsellable items
  • We need a washing machine
  • We need a dryer
  • We need to be able to stock items
    • shelves
    • racks
    • pricing


Approximately 1000 square feet of commercial space that is readily available to the East Austin Community.

I propose that the property should be purchased rather than rented for the following reasons:

  • ownership makes it less likely that we will get booted for political reasons
  • the property, when it becomes too small, can be used as the startup space for another cooperative
    • this maintains our presence in the community
    • this allows for connection (i.e. folks who want to come by the thrift store will have ready access to the thrift store's new location via personal directions and will find a new place of business that they might also be willing to support).

After store hours the store is to be available to the community. Some examples of what the space might be available for are

  • workshops
  • community education
  • films
  • community building


Volunteers will be given priority to become owner/workers.


There will initially be 1 full-time (FT) worker/owner and 1 part-time (PT) worker/owner. My reasoning behind this is the following:

  • start-up funds should be limited toa minimum ofloans from sources outside of the community because of interest payments leaving the community. This will mean fewer funds available to us and so fewer funds to pay worker/owners andsupport the community aspects of the endeavour.
  • 1 FT may be all that we need unless we want to be open on weekends
  • The small space (and limited particular donation/pick-up times) facilitates a minimum number of worker/owners until we have the funds to support more worker/owner investment.
    • volunteers will help scale the work into more workable portions and can be given discounts on merchandise for their time and priority to become worker/owners

Worker/Owner buy-in will be 1 year's salary (FT) payable over 10 years or (PT) paid over 20 years (i.e. 10% of a worker/owner's salary will be deducted as buy-in to the cooperative).

  • I include PT, but these are only for start-up cases. Dependingon the number of cooperatives we can finance for start-up at a given time we should be able to have all FT owner/workers with PT sharing between cooperatives.
  • One year's salary is representative of the type of commitment we need to start this cooperative, and should be framed in the fact that buy-in is an investment in a stable job at a living wage, an investment in the community (i.e. the cooperative(s) themselves and Austin), and is an investment in future cooperative enterprises.


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