Chester Thrift Shop Offers Boutique Experience



Elsie Walker


Lovely new and gently used dresses await shoppers at St. Elsie’s Thrift Shop.

Decades ago, when the bishop was dedicating the Church of the Messiah in Chester, he nicknamed it St. Elsie’s.  That was because the church was built on the site of the stable of an old dairy farm and “Elsie” was the name of a famous cow (Elsie the cow, the Borden’s trademark).  In 2010, when church member Diane Cardillo of Califon was looking for ways to fundraise for the church, she came up with the idea of a thrift shop.  That shop, which took up residence in the church basement, was dubbed with the church’s nickname, “St. Elsie’s Thrift Shop”.   Located at 50 State Route 24  in Chester, St. Elsie’s Thrift Shop has grown since then and now takes up eight  rooms in the basement of the old section of the church.  There people can find gently used and new clothing for men and women, household items, and home décor items.  It is run by nine volunteers; the co-managers are Cardillo and Linda Ochs of Branchville.  Recently, Cardillo talked about the thrift shop offerings, guidelines for donating, where unsold items go and more.

“[There’s] a need for this in today’s economy,” shared Cardillo in talking about the thrift shop. Opened on Thursdays from 1pm – 5pm and Saturdays from 10am – 2pm, the shop offers affordable prices on all its merchandise. Cardillo noted that something she enjoys about volunteering at the shop is “seeing the excitement of someone getting a bargain.” In addition, to its usual low prices, there are clothing sales two times a month.  One is a 50% off sale and the other is a dollar day sale on items without tags.   The shop also participates in the Morris County Clerk’s Operation Give Back Veteran’s ID card Discount Program.

“I take pride in it,” said Cardillo of the shop which is set-up like a boutique and includes two dressing rooms and a bathroom.   She noted that in its early days, the shop got some help from an outreach program of Walmart which came in and set-up hardware for displaying the shop’s items.  Cardillo shared that the shop “[has] a relaxing atmosphere” and that the volunteers are “one big happy family”.   Some work the front desk and some work in the back going through donations, sorting, and putting out stock.   However, the store could use more help, and anyone interested in volunteering can reach out to it. 

Cardillo sees a variety of benefits in the church having a thrift shop.   Its proceeds help support church operations and outreach.  Also, having the shop promotes community comradery.   Of course, there is the benefit of people getting a bargain on goods.  Some shoppers take advantage of that to buy goods to send overseas to help family members. 

In addition to clothing for men and women, St. Elsie’s offers housewares and home decor.

Not everything gets sold.  However, Cardillo noted that “We try to find a place for everything.”  As needed, items go to Market Street Mission.  Blankets and towels that can’t be sold are given to animal shelters and clothing and other textiles that can’t be sold at the shop are sold per pound  to a firm which sells them in third world countries or recycles them. 

The shop gets its merchandise through donations; however, it doesn’t take everything.  It takes certain types of items in new or gently used condition, not stained, cracked or damaged.  When asked about guidelines, Cardillo shared, “If you wouldn’t buy it at a bargain sale, if you wouldn’t pay for it, don’t donate it.”  The shop doesn’t take items such as furniture, hangers, electronics, children’s clothing, baby items, medical supplies, toys or puzzles. (The only exception is if the toys or puzzles are brand new.)   To learn more about donating and what the shop doesn’t take, see its webpage at

A problem the shop has with donations is that people will leave off large, heavy bags of items that are difficult for the volunteers to maneuver.   “We prefer smaller bags to overstuffed large bags, “said Cardillo.     

To learn more about St. Elsie’s Thrift Shop and see updates on sales, visit its Facebook page at










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