While there are many thrift stores in Miami, the Ruth Kinsman Thrift Shop within the East Ridge at Cutler Bay retirement community is unique in both its merchandise and staff. The thrift store was recently featured in the Miami Herald.
Solely run by a team of resident volunteers, the thrift shop is only open on Tuesdays to shoppers, who without fail, wait in line for the doors to open at 9 a.m.
Collectively, these volunteers have been giving their time for 33+ years.
The thrift store was founded by residents Bea Rasco and Cathryn Nelson not long after East Ridge opened. Ruth Kinsman managed it for 17 years and resident Gwen North has managed it since 2007.
It takes the team countless hours to ready the merchandise for sale. They receive donations on Thursdays and clean, price, and arrange items. Mrs. North’s husband, Art, checks all the electronics and electrical items to make sure they are in working order. Donations come from residents, families as well as outside the East Ridge community since East Ridge is a nonprofit Florida corporation.
Why do these ladies enjoy their volunteer hours? “It’s like Christmas,” said Mrs. North. “You never know what you’re going to receive when you open a donation box. We are always amazed with what sells. We may “ooh” and “ah” over something and it sits for months on the shelf while something else flies out the door. We receive a lot of weird stuff too. It’s like the TV shows “Antique Roadshow” or the “Pickers”. When we can’t figure out what something is, inevitably someone will come in and decipher its use.”
Retired kindergarten teacher Dorothy Zumbrum enjoys the opportunity to see people from the Cutler Bay area. “It’s quite social. We have our regulars that come every week. I’ve even been reacquainted with former students who remember me.”
Gretta Bransington enjoys the variety of each day. “I feel like I know a little about someone as I unpack their donation. There was a donation from a former resident and you could see how carefully he had kept his things. Everything had been meticulously maintained even a shoe shine kit. His children didn’t want these things. It was very emotional for me and I felt close to him.”
Are there great treasures to be found at the Thrift shop? North responds affirmably. Most clothes are priced from $2.25. In demand items include men’s and women’s clothing, furniture, dishes and glassware, women’s costume jewelry and artwork. Dealers really like the costume jewelry from the 1930s.