85 years in style
By Jane Kaufman
As it enters its 85th year, Thriftique Showroom has become more than a way station for gently used clothing and antiques, more than a bargain hunter’s gold mine, and more than a mission-driven charitable endeavor on the part of the National Council of Jewish Women/Cleveland.
It has become a community, and even a family, to its customers, volunteers and staff.
“Even now, when I pop in the store, the best (is) when I see some of my old customers, and it’s my understanding they still ask about me,” says Jackie Rothstein, who was formerly vice president of Thriftique for nine years.
As a volunteer, Rothstein helped Thriftique manager Abbe Froimson oversee the entire operation.
Rothstein, who grew up in the family that owned Jo-Ann Stores, says she has “a business sense.” She occasionally drove the box truck with Froimson to retrieve donated items on days when the driver was absent.
“I remember carrying sofas out of apartments at Acacia,” Rothstein says. “Pickups couldn’t stop just because we didn’t have a driver.”
She also credited the late Sarah Weintraub with teaching other volunteers “so much,” including how to sort dollar bills efficiently into the cash register.
A member of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Rothstein says she conceived of a weekly sale, a concept that entails marking down certain items in the store – and sometimes all of them. She enjoys watching customers “go hunting for their treasure.”
The Bedford Heights showroom is the latest adaptation of one of Cleveland’s oldest thrift shops. After opening in the mid-1930s, it has continued for generations to be a major source of funding for NCJW/CLE and its endeavors focusing on benefiting the lives of local women and children.
The history, vision
Started in the height of the Great Depression by Mrs. Jac (Ruth) Einstein, the original NCJW Thrift Store opened at 2035 East 105th St. in the heart of one of Cleveland’s Jewish neighborhoods.
The store doubled in size in that first year to expand from clothing and soft goods to furniture, antiques and gifts, according to research provided by NCJW/CLE.
The store was remodeled and renovated in 1942. In 1958, a second store opened in the same building for furniture, household items, appliances and giftware.
The store has since held several different locations across the east side of Cleveland. In 2011, Thriftique Showroom moved to 26055 Emery Road in Warrensville Heights, where NCJW/CLE has its office and warehouse, and in 2012 to its current location.
On entering the vestibule to the showroom, one becomes immediately aware of the mission of NCJW/CLE, with photos showing the work of the nonprofit organization in a mural featuring the words, ”Changing the Lives of Women, Children and Families in CLE. NCJW/ CLE.”
Among the projects NCJW/CLE has launched are Share What You Wear, which collects and then distributes clothing and supplies to children in need or in crisis through school and agency social workers. Volunteers fulfill orders by shopping Thriftique’s inventory of donated new and gently used clothing to create gender and size-specific clothing bags, according to Mindi Axner, executive director of NCJW/CLE. Toiletries and school supplies, also provided through donations, are included upon request.
That program, Axner says, was started more than 10 years ago on the initiative of two Orange High School students who had come to NCJW/CLE’s Designer Dress Days, the organization’s fundraiser that sells designer clothing. Attending the sale with their mothers, they decided they wanted to do something like it for teens in need.
“We created a little ‘store’ where the students and their foster parents would come and they would shop,” says Axner, a member of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Heights.
Axner says the top reason children don’t go to school is “because they don’t have clean clothes to wear.” Share What You Wear aims to alleviate that concern.
In addition, through Thriftique, NCJW/CLE holds Operation Warm Up, which builds an annual collection of winter clothing for homeless people.
And through sales at Thriftique, NCJW/CLE has launched initiatives under the name Partners in Literacy. They include a monthly book club for children in fifth grade; a reader’s theater for fourth graders; Building Bridges With Books, which contributes to school libraries; and Reading Buddies, which pairs volunteers with first graders once a month to help them learn to read.
In addition, NCJW/CLE launched and stocked a community resource room inside Bedford High School starting in the 2019-2020 school year through donations it received.
“We wanted to do something within the backyard of where we were,” Axner says of the Thriftique showroom. “So we reached out to the Bedford Heights schools and asked them what their needs were.”
A job with purpose
Froimson, Thriftique’s manager of 28 years, says she enjoys working there for several reasons.
“It feels good to come to work because I know I’m doing something beneficial,” Froimson says. “Believe me, it gets complicated. It gets crazy, but I think I thrive on that.”
In addition to the Thriftique Showroom, there is also a warehouse in Warrensville Heights. Froimson, a member of Park Synagogue, spends time at both the warehouse and the store, collecting items which are then brought to the stock room that is part of the 9,100-square-foot store. She is one of eight employees.
Thriftique also offers truck pickup for donors, who may be experiencing a tender time in their lives – a death in the family or a move that may be fraught with mixed emotions. Froimson says donors have given “such positive feedback.”
From the warehouse, items that aren’t suitable for sale are recycled at a per-pound rate, benefiting NCJW/CLE and its causes.
Assistant manager Karen Morris is a third-generation member of NCJW/CLE.
“Just the whole mission of being here as a community service for people who need us became very important to me,” says Morris, who is a 10-year employee, coming from retail. “And especially the mission of sustainability. … Landfills are filled with unused old clothing. So it’s nice to be able to be helping the world with being sustainable … to not have so much going to the landfill and being able to reuse.”
The store belongs to the National Association of Resale & Thrift Shops, and Froimson looks to the association’s Facebook page every night to see what’s trending. She also watches what customers buy, particularly those whom she knows are in the resale business themselves.
“Currently, ‘80s is huge right now in furniture and clothing,” Froimson says.
Formica, or laminated, furniture is popular as are Levi’s dark, stiff blue jeans and athleisure clothing.
What’s not selling? Men’s sport coats, suits and ties, and women’s suits. Business attire, it seems, went out with the remote work lifestyle brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic, Morris says.
Women’s sweaters are $8, women’s tops are $6. Jewelry is priced at $5, belts are $1.
Inside the store, smaller items are closest to the walls with larger items in the middle of the store, including framed artwork, bric-a-brac, children’s toys and books, furniture, clothing, shoes and purses.
Thriftique also has a designer and high-end section called the Tique, where clothing and other items are individually priced.
Volunteers work to give the store a different look each week, moving items from place to place to showcase them in a different light.
“And we do have a lot of the same people shopping, so it makes it more interesting for them,” Froimson says.
At the showroom, volunteers price and stock the shelves using a color-coded tagging system. They also size clothing.
Each week, Thriftique still stages the markdowns that Rothstein started. From Sept. 22-24, for example, all furniture was 30% off.
“What we get for donations is incredible. I mean, you could walk in there right now, it looks like a department store,” Froimson says. “You can make the most gorgeous event just shopping with us.”
As NCJW/CLE celebrates Thriftique’s 85th anniversary and in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, Thriftique partnered with Twinsburg-based model Olivia DePiore, who is showing some of Thriftique’s fashions on her Instagram account, @oliviadepiore2018. In addition, from Oct. 13-15, the store dedicated a portion of its proceeds to livespecial.com, a project of NCJW/CLE that provides support and resources for those with disabilities.
DePiore, 24, who has Down syndrome, “has tied her love of fashion (and thrifting) with her passion for empowering others with her can-do attitude,” according to an NCJW/CLE news release about the partnership.
DePiore’s mother, Vicky, says her daughter enjoyed picking out clothes at Thriftique for the fashion shoot after her friend, Zoe Felber, a summer marketing intern for NCJW/CLE, reached out about partnering.
“Then we went and visited the site, which is fabulous,” Vicky DePiore says. “There are such high-end products and just stuff that we … don’t know if we’d ever be able to afford it any other way. And it’s all in great condition, beautifully kept. Their displays and their marketing, they’ve done so well.”
Olivia DePiore, who has modeled in New York City and internationally, put together some outfits, which Vicky DePiore photographed. They then returned to Thriftique for a professional photoshoot by Mariana Edelman.
The hope, Vicky DePiore says, is that “Olivia’s exposure can help Thriftique, and vice versa.
Rosean Schmidt of Pepper Pike is a 15-year volunteer at Thriftique and coordinator of the 20 to 25 volunteers who help staff the store.
Schmidt got involved after serving a four-year stint co-chairing NCJW’s Designer Dress Days, which this year was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Schmidt usually shops firsthand, she has made some significant purchases at Thriftique: artwork, jewelry, and blocks and books for her grandchildren. Her prize find was a set of Mikasa plates, which she uses every day. She noticed them when she was volunteering in the warehouse.
“You just never know what you’re going to find,” she says.
Schmidt says she most enjoys her interactions with customers and other volunteers.
“One person I hadn’t seen for a long time, you know, our kids were at temple together,” Schmidt says, referring to Park Synagogue. “And here, we would get reacquainted. And we’re very close.”
And as thrift shopping only grows in popularity, Thriftique may be one of the oldest and largest stores of its kind in Northeast Ohio, according to NCJW/CLE.
“It’s really interesting because the resale business has really come into its own,” Schmidt says. ”And when you consider that (Thriftique) has been in business for 85 years, it’s amazing.”
Thriftique Showroom’s 85th anniversary sale
WHAT: Featuring discounts, raffles (for $85 gift cards) and other surprises throughout the day.
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 3-5
WHERE: 5055 Richmond Road, Bedford Heights
To donate clothing and other items, visit Thriftique’s warehouse at 26055 Emery Road in Warrensville Heights, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. For free furniture pickups, call 216-378-2264. For more information, visit thriftiqueshowroom.com.