There’s a lot of competition for thrift store shoppers in Payson but the Time Out Thrift Store might have hit on an idea to grab their attention — the collectables corner.

Launched in mid-March, the corner has already tempted shoppers to drop hundreds of dollars. In comparison, the bridal boutique sold one dress in two years.

But the corner isn’t the only improvement. Store manager Deborah Crawford has also de-cluttered and rearranged, held fast to quality control with donations and changed the store hours to align with a new management philosophy requested by the Time Out board.

Decorating comes naturally to Crawford and her staff, mostly made up of volunteers. Crawford ran her own antique and natural fiber baby clothing store in Seattle after studying art history and interior decorating.

It was surprising to hear how many of the Time Out staff found the store through shopping, including Crawford. Then they moved up to volunteering. A few, like Crawford, took the jump to paid work after the organization recognized their skills.

Take Lois Gibbs as an example.

Shoppers will see her manning the collectables corner.

She works part-time but spends many volunteer hours in the store as well.

“It’s so fun here,” she said.

Gibbs lives alone but longed to be around people, so she applied for training through the senior program run by Pima and Gila counties.

After deciding she wanted to work in a thrift store because she loved to shop in them, she volunteered around town to find the best fit. Gibbs quickly decided the Time Out Thrift Store was for her.

“She makes all the difference,” said Gibbs, pointing to Crawford. “If we have a good idea, she says, ‘Go ahead, make it happen.’”

Gibbs said she loves the camaraderie and just plain fun everyone has with each other. She jokes that if Crawford’s boyfriend rode a motorcycle, she’d “steal him away.”

Ariel Edmundson, the supervisor of receiving, agreed that Crawford allows her employees the support and space they need to make the shop the best it can be. As she talked about the path that brought her to Payson and the Time Out Thrift Store, she sat with her 8-year-old daughter at the snack table pricing figurines. The students were on spring break, but Crawford simply put Edmundson’s daughter to work.

“She’s such a good helper. This morning she rearranged the stuffed animals,” said Crawford.

Edmundson came to the thrift store after completing job training in Phoenix at Maggie’s Place, a nonprofit that supports pregnant women.

“She has a good eye and can price the best of all of us,” said Crawford.

In the background, Patricia Mayer worked non-stop opening bags of clothes, quickly assessing them, then hanging them on a hanger. No stops, no breaks.

“She has decades of retail experience,” said Crawford. “She just volunteers.”

It’s not a simple job to separate what’s saleable and what is not, said Crawford. In fact, the two men who volunteer to take donations, James Garcia and Danny Rayford, struggle to say “no.”

“They have Ariel or me make the hard call,” said Crawford.

The two men came into the break room to confirm that Crawford and especially Edmundson have no qualms about turning people away.

“We let them say ‘no,’” said Garcia.

The staff recognize items have to be saleable or the store will have to spend time and money going to the landfill. The thrift store cannot wash and dry clothes or repair furniture or appliances.

Crawford said she has almost wept tossing away new brand name clothes because of an easily removable stain or lost button. She has to dump furniture that lacks a leg or has damaged upholstery.

“If people would only wash their clothes before they donate them, that would help a lot,” she said.

In the past, the thrift store provided up to 20% of the revenue of the Time Out budget, which is why the addition of the collectables corner makes such a difference.

Crawford explained Payson thrift stores have a unique situation that explains the quality of thrift store items in the area. When retirees die, their children often, in the rush to get the home on the market, take all the contents to thrift stores.

“They give away the most amazing treasures,” said Crawford.

Crystal goblets, vintage clothing, antique furniture, china, jewelry, the list goes on. Crawford has had antique dealers come to the collectables corner to find things for their stores.

“Please understand, we are not an antique store,” said Crawford, so she does not price her donated items at antique store prices. Which is why she did not use antique in the name of the new display.

Back in the collectables corner, as a customer wandered around, Gibbs chatted about the trinkets.

“There is constantly stuff to put out,” she said taking out a dust cloth and starting the tidy up a shelf full of wine glasses.

“These are beautiful,” said a customer, setting aside cut crystal bottles.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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