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Reopened hospice shop raises $260,000 for compassionate end-of-life care

  • Lori Lunn of New Salem browses even more cashmere sweaters. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Kristen Falk scores a long cardigan from Nordstrom for six dollars. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Judy Gagnon delights in her four-dollar George Foreman Grill. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kristen Falk with a long Nordstrom sweater she got for six dollars at the Hospice Shop Of the Fisher Home. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Sara Stelzner marvels over her four-dollar Anne Klein scarf. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Kerry Poole of Ashfield browses a clothing rack in the Hospice Shop of the Fisher Home Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2018. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo—

  • Alexandra Diamond (third from left) greets some of the hundreds of customers who queued up for the hospice shop’s reopening. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Innovative displays and quality donations enable the Hospice Shop of the Fisher Home in Amherst to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. Staff Photo/Andy Castillo

  • Shoppers show off their best finds: Sarah Jones brandishes a seven-dollar cashmere v-neck. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amelia Adams with her Brooklyn Tweed Yarn she got for three dollars at the Hospice Shop Of the Fisher Home. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Amelia Adams unearthed this three-dollar hank of Brooklyn Tweed Yarn. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS



@AndyCCastillo
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

They swarmed like bees among racks of cashmere sweaters and picked through shelves of fine leather shoes.

By the end of the day, Alexandra Diamond, director of the Hospice Shop of the Fisher Home on University Drive in Amherst, had sold 1,600 items with her team of four employees and 60 or so volunteers, raising thousands of dollars to help support the Hopsice of the Fisher Home in Amherst.

“We broke a [sales] record,” Diamond, 35, said. “People seemed excited about the space.”

For the last 10 years, the hospice shop has been operating across University Drive in a small storefront next to the former Hangar Pub and Grill building. But last Tuesday, the nonprofit moved to this 5,000 square foot retail and workroom space, which is nearly double the size of their former location. Diamond noted they’d outgrown the old space, and wanted to expand. 

Just before the store’s 10 a.m. reopening, a line of hundreds of shoppers stretched a few doors down past the Greenfield Savings Bank at the plaza’s corner. And when Diamond opened the doors, the crowd rushed inside.

All of the items in the store have been donated, and proceeds from the hospice shop go to the Fisher Home, a residential facility for those receiving end-of-life hospice care, in Amherst.

The hospice shop and the Fisher Home are intrinsically tied together, Diamond says. Last year, the store raised about $265,000, which covers the thrift store’s expenses and directly benefits those staying at the home.

The Hospice of the Fisher Home is a nonprofit organization, and the hospice shop is a part of it, she said. The sales revenue generated by the Hospice Shop is one of several income sources for the Fisher Home, which include government grants and other insurance carrier reimbursements for patient care, and private donations. 

“We all feel like we're on the same team,” Diamond continued.

That sense of partnership goes beyond employees and volunteers.

Ellen LaFleche, a local resident, says she patronizes the store because of its mission. “I believe in hospice,” she said, noting that her husband had received hospice care before he passed away a few years ago. LaFleche was there shopping with Barbara Sharp, a friend, and paused to talk near the front door before taking in the new space for the first time. 

LaFleche compared the shop’s former space, which she frequented, with the new one: “It was always elegant, but this looks like a fancy boutique. We’ve always liked  that it’s well edited — there’s nothing with stains, nothing with holes, and there are themed displays.”

Further inside the store, at a color-coordinated circular rack of cashmere sweaters, Pat Connell of Springfield said she visits a few times each year because the hospice shop has exceptional offerings and reasonable prices.

“Everything you get is unbelievable,” Connell said.

The volunteers here have turned displaying donations into an art form. As a result, the Hospice Shop of the Fisher Home doesn't feel like a typical thrift store.

“We're intentional about what goes out, and when it goes out. Each item is considered — what's the best way to maximize this item?” said Diamond, referring to a back room where employees sort through donations and curate them based on season or themes, such as an Emily Dickinson-themed book display or a back to school selection of notebooks and pens. “We're not just taking anything and throwing it up on a shelf. The design is thoughtful, and the way we put out the merchandise is also thoughtful.”

Perusing the racks, Kerry Poole of Ashfield, who works at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, held up a red Homeyee dress.

“This one still has the tag on it,” she said, adding, “all of my wardrobe comes from here.”

Many of those in the store on Tuesday, including Poole, noted the brightly painted walls and thoughtful decor in the new space. Before opening, Diamond and her crew, which includes interior designer Anita Rains, the store’s manager, renovated the building’s interior, adding a wall to separate a donation area from the sales floor, and a few dressing rooms, among other changes.

Diamond, who is originally from New Bedford, began managing the thrift store around nine years ago, soon after it opened. While studying at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she worked at Roz's Place Vintage in downtown Northampton, and got a taste for retail. After graduating with a degree in women’s studies, she was hired at the Amherst hospice shop. 

“I've always been a thrift store person, I love that you never know what you're going to find. You can find an amazing one-of-a-kind vintage item that you've never seen before, and it's so special, but you can also find really great clothes that you would have got at the mall at a fraction of the price. It covers all your bases, and you have that thrill that 'I just never know what I'm going to see,” she said.

Among the more unique items that she’s sold over the  years are an early 1900’s hand-printed Japanese silk kimono jacket, and a vintage Hermes scarf worth hundreds of dollars.

“We get amazing, beautiful clothing of all varieties, like vintage designer clothing, and beautiful Eileen Fisher clothing with tags on it,” Diamond said. “We have so many special things in here.”

The store closes twice a year, once in March and another time in August, so that Diamond can swap out seasonal items in order to stay relevant.

Diamond noted that much of the clothing editing is done by volunteers. Each one tackles a specific section of the store. For example, Michele Barale, a volunteer, keeps track of and organizes all the shoes.

"She's polishing the shoes, categorizing the shoes, she's thinking about what season they're going to be appropriate for, she's fixing shoe laces, she is taking care of that in the most thoughtful way possible," Diamond said.

For the volunteers and the hospice shop’s staff, Diamond emphasized that it’s not really about the clothing for them.

"It's the best thing ever to love retail — which I actually do — and running a successful store, but it's not about us,” Diamond said. 

“We love breaking daily sales records, and putting in all of this effort, because then it makes the most money for the Fisher Home. It's all the best parts of retail, you retain them all, and you're working toward this amazing goal, which is compassionate end of life care for all."

Andy Castillo can be reached at acastillo@gazettenet.com.

How to Connect

The Hospice Shop of the Fisher Home, at 6 University Drive in Amherst, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The store is closed on Sundays. Donations can be dropped off at the same place. More information can be found at www.fisherhome.org/p/hospice-shop.html