Community services

Listen Community Services launches a boutique in a thrift store in Lebanon

The store opened on January 18, to mixed reactions from customers.

by Lauren Azrin | 02/01/22 05:00

On January 15, Listen Community Services, a chain of second-hand stores that uses its profits for community projects, announced on Facebook that it would open a shop section in its thrift store in Lebanon on January 18. the space will work as a way to concentrate the most expensive clothes in one place.

“Our primary mission is to provide a space where affordable clothing is available to everyone in the Upper Valley,” the post read. “However, some people have told us that they would like to see a space where some of our higher quality and more expensive garments could be seen together.”

This decision has received mixed reactions from customers. Frequent shopper Sarah Stewart, a Hannover resident and non-profit fundraising consultant, said she thought opening the store was a good move on Listen’s part, as she believed it would generate more income to fund community work.

“Their primary mission is not the thrift store,” Stewart said. “It’s one of the ways they pay for their real work, which is providing heating and housing subsidies, running a food pantry and preparing community meals.”

According to a recent Valley News articleListen allocates $1.25 million a year to run its social service programs, or about 25% of the revenue from their three different thrift stores in Lebanon, White River Junction and Canaan.

Another benefit of the store, Stewart says, is its potential positive environmental impact, citing the use of water and waste created by the fashion industry. Stewart hopes the store will attract more people to Listen, increasing sustainable fashion purchases.

“If the shop encourages people who normally would stay away [from Listen] because they think it’s junky to go buy second-hand stuff, I think that’s great,” she said.

Stewart pointed out that many people who shop at thrift stores are resellers who buy items at lower prices just to sell them online at higher prices.

“It keeps more money for Listen,” she said.

However, others said they don’t think Listen should use high prices to sell donated clothing.

Tess Bowler ’25 said she felt having a shop gave Listen’s designation as a thrift store an inaccurate label.

“The core value of a thrift store is usually not to make a profit,” she said. “It’s to sell second-hand clothes to people who probably can’t afford it.”

Joann Kwolek Dundas, a frequent Listen customer and longtime assistant manager of several Salvation Army thrift stores, said she was supportive of the shop.

“It can definitely work,” she said. “It all depends on how they assess things. You know, it’s a thrift store, and it’s supposed to help people who aren’t able to afford the higher prices, so maybe they should just keep the prices in the middle somewhere.

Dundas added that if the price is too high, the item won’t sell in normal thrift store circulation, so she thinks it will be helpful to have a “more suitable” section for certain types of clothing.

“They know their customer base, or they should, so they should be able to roughly gauge what price they can sell something for,” she said, adding, “I think the store could be a really good thing.”

Listen management did not respond to requests for comment sent to the store’s email.