Thrift shop’s grand opening today in Pittsfield

Posted Dec. 12, 2008, at 6:57 p.m.

PITTSFIELD, Maine — Pennywise Thrift Shop, an outreach mission of the First Congregational Church in Pittsfield, will officially open its new building today, 42 years after it first offered good, used clothing to the community.

The thrift shop has filled a need for many Pittsfield area families. It’s the place to do school shopping, pick up Christmas gifts or find fabric for a quilt. It’s where families who have lost all to a fire come and restock.

Those needing help, those with an offbeat sense of style, and those thrifty enough to know a good buy when they see it have flocked to Pennywise. The shop serves several hundred people a week, volunteers estimated.

Until this week, it was tucked behind the church and the parsonage on Somerset Avenue, in a tiny outbuilding that offered everything from ball gowns to corsets, flannel shirts to L.L. Bean boots, swim fins to winter coats.

That dim, crowded facility has been replaced by a new 1,100-square-foot storefront. Over the past summer, the former parsonage was demolished and the new building constructed. Much of the work was done by volunteers, but the lion’s share of the funding came from an anonymous donor. That donor pledged an initial $25,000 for the razing of the parsonage and the removal of debris. The donor also has provided $50,000 in increments of $10,000 that the church matched.

“We are very, very close to our goal,” parishioner and longtime Pennywise volunteer Joanne Stevens said Thursday. “Because we have done well, we are getting a washer and dryer and some things we never would have been able to afford. People have been so, so generous.”

The new space is bright and well-lit, with large windows and a front porch that this week sports a lighted Christmas tree.

Books, coats, children’s items, bedding, jackets and pants are all sorted on racks and shelves. This week, to celebrate the grand opening, all clothing is $2.50 a bag and Stevens expects a big rush. “For the last two days, people have been coming by and peeking in the windows,” she said.

Faye Cummings, who has volunteered at Pennywise for 11 years, keeps a book under the counter with special requests. “And right now, with the economy, the need is greater than ever,” she said.

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