By Cheryl Conway
After expanding so much in less than a year, a non-profit thrift boutique shop in Long Valley recently relocated, offering more shopping hours and its own dressed up store-front window.
The Long Valley Junior Women’s Club is back in business with its own space just two doors down from its previous space at Green Market. Located at 28 Schooley’s Mountain Rd. in Long Valley, Racks Valley Boutique just held its grand opening, Sept. 8, with its wine and cheese event.
Through the help of volunteers and generous landlords, Racks was able to muddle through and continue to stay afloat when hit with challenges. Club members are looking forward to greater sales that will not only provide quality clothing to shoppers but will support the community in so many facets.
“We are so excited!” says Andrea Alfieri, co-vice president of Racks along with Michelle Barron. “Now we have our own boutique.”
At racks, LVJWC collects the community’s clothing, resells the quality merchandise and donates the remaining items to Big Brothers Big Sisters. All proceeds to go back to support the town’s services and charities.
“It’s an award winning concept,” says Alfieri, one that was recognized in May as the Best Community Improvement Community Program by the New Jersey State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC.
Club member Amanda Janke explained “We had outgrown our current space and needed to be able to have our own, private storefront to successfully continue the business. Just shy of the boutique’s one year anniversary last June, club members started looking for a new space, but ran into so many challenges that at one point they feared they may have to close the doors for good.
“Topping the list of hardships was finding a property owner that was willing to negotiate with a non-profit organization,” explains Janke. “The club was also set on keeping the boutique in Long Valley, where most of its members reside, and there simply were not enough affordable options available. At almost the last second, the group’s former landlord, Leona Harrington, was able to help the club broker a deal with the owner of a property just a few doors down from the Green Market building.
“It’s really no surprise that Leona was the one who finally got us in contact with someone who could help us, she’s always been one of the club’s biggest supporters and I know she wanted to make sure we could continue on this endeavor, we’re very grateful,” says Janke.
Since June 2015, Harrington had offered the LVJWC a space at the Green Market on Thursdays, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“She offered us a corner,” says Alfieri. “We kind of grew and grew, expanded and expanded.”
When March and April approached, the group realized “We are huge,” says Alfieri. It got to a point when the group wanted to relocate to find a spot of their own.
“We had expanded so much from the original space,” says Alfieri. “We felt we were taking advantage of her generosity. We took and took and took and took. She gave us an opportunity to start; she gave us a corner. We were taking up too much space.
“We were limited,” explains Alfieri. “Now we have our own space; we have our own hours; hours are more flexible.”
Owners Karl and Janet Leitz offered the LVJWC its own space, right along the Columbia Trail where “it’s always hustling and bustling” with bikers, walkers and families, says Alfieri.
The boutique focuses on high end thrift for women, as well as a selection of men’s and children’s items.
“We need to stick with nicer labels since it is a boutique,” says Alfieri.” Some stuff still has tags. We have to be very selective,” she adds since space in the shop is still tight with 500 sq. ft. Some brand names include J. Crew, Banana Republic, Anne Taylor, Calvin Klein, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, Children’s Place, Gymboree, Talbots with a designer rack featured soon.
Racks “has beautiful stuff for affordable prices,” says Alfieri. “We are an upscale thrift boutique.”
Prices for sale range from $3 to $20, says Alfieri.
“You never know what you’re going to find in the bin,” says Alfieri, who donates about 10 hours a week at Racks. “What comes out of a bag, sometimes it’s a jackpot.”
While they sell the premier items, Alfieri says Racks accepts all types of clothing since it donates the items not placed on the racks to Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“We get 20 cents a pound from Brothers and Sisters,” says Alfieri. “Whether we donate it or keep it, we spread the wealth.”
Profits from sales and BBBS pickups are distributed to the many organizations and charities that the LVJWC supports, such as the local coat drive, sneaker drive. Most of the financial proceeds support the town’s first responders, police officer vehicles, seniors, veterans and the schools, says Alfieri.
“First aid, fire, police,” is the “the first order of business,” says Alfieri. “They work very hard to keep us safe and healthy.”
For those who have items to donate, drop off at the store during store hours or place in the white bin outdoors in the back of the store. Shoes, housewares and bedding are accepted, not for sale in the store, but will be forwarded to BBBS. No bathing suits, undergarments, stained, ripped items nor consignments accepted.
All donations are tax-deductible.
During its first year of business, Racks allocated $1,000 in proceeds. With fundraisers throughout the year, the LVJWC raised $46,000.
This year, Alfieri’s goal is to raise $2,000 from Racks.
“I would like to double it personally,” she says.
Since the Racks survives with the help of volunteers, LVJWC is always looking for volunteers.
LVJWC welcomes women of all ages, who can offer “new ideas, fresh concepts” on “something we can donate to or fundraise for,” says Alfieri. The group meets every second Thursday at Zion Church with 7 p.m. meet and greet and 7:30 p.m. meeting.
Racks store hours are Mon- Fri., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Thurs., 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. during Green Market hours.
For more information and to volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.