Bargain shopping to benefit others

New United Way thrift shop opening in Secaucus

While Secaucus has a history of outlet and bargain shopping, a new option is coming to town that will benefit the homeless and others in need with the opening of a United Way thrift shop.
The grand opening “Trunk-or-Treat” event, which features games, face-painting, food, and costumed characters will be on Oct. 31 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. with a ribbon cutting scheduled around 4 p.m. Kids will be able to go from trunk to trunk for free treats.

Serving those in need

Hartz Mountain Industries donated the 9,000 square foot space located at 79 Metro Way to the municipality, which has also relocated their food pantry to the spacious site. As a collaborative effort the thrift shop will be open to all bargain hunters, and the proceeds will go toward local social services and the United Way of Hudson County. The site will also be a source of clothing, furniture, and housewares for low-income or displaced individuals.
“Whoever comes, even if it is the wealthiest of the wealthy…when they buy something, the money goes between United Way and the town,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “We formed a pretty good partnership with them.” He noted that the municipality has worked closely with United Way in the past on the distribution of other major donations such as the 100,000 pounds of food contributed by Goya.

“Everything is donated, even the racks.” – Francisco Guzman
“The need for the thrift store in general is to provide an ongoing source of [sustainable] revenue for our homeless programs,” said Benjamin Dineen, director of resource development and marketing for United Way of Hudson County. A nonprofit organization, United Way last year provided permanent supportive housing to 30 disabled and chronically homeless individuals and kept an additional 700 from becoming homeless through social services and financial resources to keep them in their homes, according to Dineen.
“We have always been nipping around the edges of some sort of thrift operation because we have historically gotten things from Bed, Bath, & Beyond and clothing from Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein…from the distribution centers in Secaucus,” said Dineen. A contribution last year of furniture goods from Goldman Sachs valued at a half million dollars planted the seed for their first resale store on 64th Street and Bergenline Avenue in West New York.
“The idea of the thrift store was really great because when we are setting someone up in a house…instead of giving you things for your apartment we can say, ‘Go by our store with your social worker…and pick out your own couch…lamps and your own clothes,’” he added.
According to Dineen the West New York store provides the opportunity for families with modest incomes to purchase new and gently used items including furniture, home furnishings, house wares and clothing at affordable prices.
The organization also plans to train unemployed and homeless individuals for a career in retail in the store and warehouse to acquire workforce habits and skills to become employable.

Discount shopping

But in addition to helping those in need, the store is also available to anyone who wants to shop at discounted rates. The thrift shop offers a mix of furniture, accessories, clothing, and other random items. Some of the clothing arrives from local name brand outlet centers in Secaucus.
On a recent tour through the brightly-lit space, which previously served as the offices of a collection agency, Gonnelli held up a pair of jeans that had been part of a large donation of clothing from Aeropostale, “in a store this is a lot of money,” he noted. Local volunteers had sorted through 20 to 30 boxes of jeans and jackets among other items that were to be distributed to families in need.
“People love a bargain,” Gonnelli said.
The wall-to-wall carpeted space was a work in progress. The spacious site had multiple rooms designated for offices, storage, sorting, the Secaucus food pantry, a kitchen, and more. Area rugs were piled up in one corner, tripod style floor lamps lined one section, and circular racks were beginning to fill up with ladies suit jackets on one and baby clothes on another.
“Everything is donated, even the racks,” said United Way Store Manager Francisco Guzman. “We are trying to make it cost effective just from the set-up…we are using what we already have.” He surveyed the room and was in the process of evaluating what he had to work with, and how to arrange and price items.
“From 50 cents all the way up to a couple of hundred depending on the piece,” said Guzman about the range of pricing. He pointed to a rack full of Mary Kay suit jackets that were being sold for $5 a piece, a pair of $12 Larry Levine pants, lamps at $45, and $2 for baby top.
Guzman noted that all donations had to be evaluated because “one person’s donation can be more of a burden,” if it is in poor condition and deemed garbage, which he said means United Way “has to pay for the disposal.” He gave the example of a company that wants to get rid of office furniture with desks with missing drawers and other incomplete or nonworking items that the company thinks are okay to donate.
United Way has not yet determined whether the store will accept donations from the general public as the logistics are still being worked out.
The store will be staffed with volunteers who perform retail-related tasks such as managing the cash register, bagging items, stocking shelves, and sorting through donations. On-site parking is available. The store will be open Friday 3 to 6 p.m., Saturday, and Sunday 12 to 6 p.m.
To volunteer, donate, or for more information, call (201) 434-2625 or email:

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group