April 19, 2018
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A nifty, thrifty store with a mission

Lacey Fellis of Sullivan looks through the children’s clothing recently at Aunt Nellie’s Attic in Holden. The thrift shop benefits the Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor. Buy Photo
By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

HOLDEN, Maine — “From minks to sinks” is what the sign says outside the log house-style storefront of Aunt Nellie’s Attic thrift shop.Aunt Nellie’s is a place where customers can pick up a $3 toaster oven, a pair of sunglasses, a talking rooster toy or even a bag of film for $1. They can rent an Easter Bunny or Santa suit — and all the proceeds benefit the Hammond Street Senior Center in Bangor.

The 7-year-old second-hand shop stocks its shelves with donations and sells the items, which range in price from 25 cents to $350 for a canoe.

Store manager Kathy Clegg has worked in retail all her life and now works as the store’s only paid employee — and a true saleswoman.

A while back, somebody donated a pool table to Aunt Nellie’s.

“I never even brought it into the store,” Clegg said. “I sold it at a cocktail party one night.”

The other workers who help run the store are all volunteers, mostly from the Hammond Street Senior Center.

The volunteers help in various capacities.

“One woman is from England — we just love her stories. She likes to fold the [plastic] bags,” Clegg said. “She doesn’t like that they get crinkled.”

Jeanette Rice is one of the volunteers, even though she doesn’t use the senior center anymore. Most of her time is spent at Aunt Nellie’s.

“It’s pleasant to work here,” Rice said. “It’s not dingy or depressing.” She spends her time alphabetizing and cleaning the books.

All the money goes back to the seniors, supporting the programs the Hammond Street Senior Center offers — including free programs open to anyone older than 55. Aunt Nellie’s is the center’s main source of income.

Since January, the shop has raised $22,000 for the center. Clegg’s goal is $50,000 this year.

One of the shop’s fastest-selling items is yarn and sewing materials. Clegg calls Nellie’s a hub for quilters.

“You have no idea how much yarn I sold this winter. I had three truckloads of yarn — now I have three little bins,” Clegg said. “That’s how much I sold.”

Customer Barbara McNure comes to Aunt Nellie’s once a week. One July day her treasures included a plastic bag of off-white yarn and four VHS tapes.

“I barter with her,” McNure said. “I had a whole bunch of material and patterns. I don’t sew anymore. I got the yarn free,” she said, holding up the bag.

For the most part, Clegg doesn’t barter — McNure is special.

So special that when Clegg’s mother died of breast cancer — something Clegg herself has conquered three times — she asked McNure to finish her mother’s cathedral-pattern quilt.

Others try to haggle, but Clegg stays firm. When Barry Landers saw two red canoes resting on the store’s porch, he came in for the first time.

“Would you take $300 for one?” he asked regarding the $350 canoe.

“$325,” Clegg said.

“Do you buy stuff?” he wanted to know.

“No, everything is donated,” Clegg said.

“I didn’t even know about this place,” Landers said. “You have a dining room table?”

With that, Landers wandered about the high-ceilinged store.

Clegg rarely knows what she will get. The only thing she won’t take is used clothing.

Besides the regular donations, Aunt Nellie’s got a boost from a duty-free salesman who left the business and gave the store 200 pallets of goods. Five years later, Clegg has only 83 pallets left.

The senior center’s executive director, Kathy Bernier, said Clegg has revitalized the shop since she began working there almost two years ago.

“She is Aunt Nellie,” Bernier said with a laugh.

Aunt Nellie’s Attic is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily at 223 Main Road, Route 1A, Holden.

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