Embellished sage-colored ballet flats sit with other new pairs of boxed shoes on a shelf with a $5 sign. A leopard--print sofa near the door sports a paper marked "sold." Upstairs, a navy Ralph Lauren T-shirt hangs on the $1 women's clothes rack before it goes home with a customer, leaving behind several blouses with store tags that indicate they're new.
The Rescue Mission is hoping customers find treasure at its reopened thrift store.
Treasure House, 2203 Lafayette St., formerly named Bargains Galore, celebrated Saturday after undergoing several renovations. The store's new look included repainting the fašade yellow, adding new carpet and paint to the interior, and remodeling bathrooms to be at the same level as those in the corporate offices. This is just part of the Rescue Mission's rebranding efforts for its four ministry houses, making the public more aware of its restorative care for local people experiencing an emergency or shelter crisis.
Since September, the Rescue Mission “has been going through some changes,” said CEO the Rev. Donovan Coley. “People often thought of us as just giving out three meals a day and a cot to sleep on.”
While his organization continues to provide free meals and shelter, he said the community “needed a better understanding of our mission.” Renovations for the thrift store were completed for less than $5,000 through “shoestring” budgeting and help from many volunteers. “Our funding is secondary to our mission…," Coley said, Treasure House "is more than a thrift store. It's a community of compassion, leading others to experience the love of Jesus Christ.”
In preparing for the rebranding, Coley focused on three aspects: structure, systems and strategy. “The first thing was to get the right people on the bus…and the support of our board of Trustees,” he said.
Part of his strategy was to connect with local businesses and individual donors, and add the positions of warehouse coordinator and major donor officer. The organization also reorganized its computer programming and switched to in-house mailing for its direct mail campaign.
Located near the Hanna-Creighton neighborhoods, Treasure House is now a more reasonable place to shop for those on tight budgets, said Melissa Dammeyer, who hired on as the store's manager in April. She said she works hard to rival other thrift stores through reduced prices and vouchers from those in the Rescue Mission's various programs.
Dammeyer said the store exists mainly to build relationships with the public and “Many people come two to three times a week just to see us.”
“Melissa has really changed that store around,” said George Dockery, a Fort Wayne resident who has donated to Treasure House for the past 10 years. Dockery was a Kmart employee for more than 35 years and said the rebranding efforts have “made that store as good as any Wal-Mart or Kmart.” Treasure House often has donated toys and infant clothes for sale, which Dockery has bought for his 6-month-old grandson, reporting that the prices are lower “even than Salvation Army.”
At 25 cents each, baby clothes with happy printed critters on them wait for the right customer to come along.
The other three houses under the Rescue Mission are Charis House, a community for women and children facing homelessness; Life House, which offers the hungry three meals every day; and Restoration House, a rehabilitation facility for men.