A Gem on the East End: Local Thrift Shop Supports Community for 23 Years and Counting

September 1, 2016
By Rianna Lee


East End Community Thrift, located at 5123 Penn Avenue in Garfield.  Photo credit: Rianna Lee

When I walked into the East End Community Thrift Shop, the first thing that caught my eye was a sign at the checkout counter – a quote by Dorothy Day that reads, “No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.”

After chatting with Shawna, co-manager of the shop locally known as Thrifty, I could see why this particular quote is on display. From their voucher program to the annual fashion show featuring the lovely ladies from Sojourner House, the East End Community Thrift Shop works every day to ensure its customers and the community have a reason to hope.

For 23 years, Thrifty has been providing quality, low-cost clothing and household goods to the surrounding community. But what makes this shop unique is not its low prices or quality goods – although it’s been the cheapest thrift store in Pittsburgh since the very beginning – it’s the staff and volunteers. The shop is run solely by volunteers, and those who are need to fulfill community service requirements can do so by volunteering at Thrifty. And if you shop there frequently enough, the volunteers will begin to treat you like family. Shawna told me, “Our volunteers are friendly and we know our customers. If not by name, then by what they shop for.”

Thrifty’s voucher program has provided individuals – and in some cases, their children – in homeless shelters, correctional facilities, mental health institutions, and similar organizations throughout Pittsburgh with essential items like clothing, furniture, books, and other goods. Although vouchers are only available for those who are part of a participating organization, everyone in the community can expect low prices for quality goods. Since it opened in 1993, Thrifty has only raised its prices once, and they’re still the lowest prices among thrift shops in Pittsburgh.

The shop also collaborates with Sojourner House, an organization that provides housing and support to women recovering from substance abuse and their children, to put on a fashion show every year in April or May. The fashion show, Affordable Chic, has been a yearly fundraiser for the store since its beginning in 1993. It gives the wonderful women at Sojourner House a huge self-esteem and confidence boost to own the runway in affordable clothes that make them look and feel good. It’s truly all in the name – the East End Community Thrift Shop stands because of our community in order to serve our community, and that’s what has kept customers coming back for more than two decades.

Thrifty is located just two doors down from the Thomas Merton Center on Penn Avenue. As we transition into autumn and shed our shorts and tank tops in exchange for jeans and sweaters, consider giving the gift of hope by donating used clothes and household items to the East End Community Thrift Shop! Donations are accepted during normal operating hours – 10AM-4PM Tuesday thru Friday, and Noon-4PM on Saturday. Or – just stop in and shop around! The prices are low, the volunteers are friendly, and who would pass up an opportunity to support the community while you shop?

Rianna is a NewPeople intern at the Thomas Merton Center and a senior at Duquesne University. Her interests include feminism and women’s rights, LGBT rights, and economic justice.


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