Discovery Shop – “Upscale Retail” For A Worthy Cause

The shop looks more “upscale resale” than thrift store, says manager Amy Peck.

by Melvin E. Matthews, Jr.

Since 1995 the Discovery Shop at Townside Festival Shopping Center on Franklin Road has been raising money for the American Cancer Society by selling quality new and gently used merchandize, including fashionable clothing and shoes.  All of the revenues generated by the shop go to the Roanoke chapter of the American Cancer Society. “We cover all of our expenses from sales,” explains the Discovery Shop’s manager, Amy Peck, who calls her position the “best job” she’s ever had.  “We don’t cost the American Cancer Society anything.”

The Discovery Shop has a boutique-like atmosphere—one stressing one-on-one interaction between the shop’s staff and customers, akin to the kind of personal shopping experience one has at a fine ladies store, men’s store, or department store.  “You get a little bit more attention from the people, and we actually help you with your selection,” says Peck, who labels it upscale resale.

“We offer more fashion items [including many] that actually are brand new. It’s a difference in atmosphere – a difference in quality and customer service.” The local Discovery Shop grew out of the conviction of several leading American Cancer Society volunteers, who figured that Roanoke would be a good location for such a facility.

“We were fortunate in that as soon as people recognized the difference in quality between what we offer at Discovery Shop vs. what a thrift store might offer, we soon developed a very large and happy customer base”, said Peck, who used to work for Event Zone. Related to the sluggish economy perhaps, over the past year-and-a-half it has experienced a tremendous upsurge in traffic.

Donations have also risen.  “More and more people are making sure that their excess goods—whether it be clothing or fine home furnishings and such, goes on to serve a second purpose,” said Peck, who attributes the up tick to both the economy and the fact that people are thinking more in terms of green.  Consequently, “we’ve been able to contribute more to the American Cancer Society, [to] help more patients and their caregivers here in the Roanoke Valley.”

The Discovery Shop has a base of 125 volunteers, who are always busy promoting the shop and encouraging people to donate items.  Shop personnel visit civic and religious groups, and make presentations to inform the public about its existence and mission.

The Discovery Shop also contacts realtors about people who are moving or downsizing, as well as retirement homes, to ask about donations. Peck knows people in the home organizing field who encourage their customers to donate items they eliminate from cluttered closets and attics.  Some have contributed to the shop for years and continue to do so—what Peck calls “returning donations. It can come from anywhere and everywhere.”

Those items that don’t quite fit in are donated to other not-for-profit organizations in the Roanoke Valley: the Rescue Mission, women’s shelters, the Veteran’s Administration in Salem and area churches. “We make sure that [all] items donated go to somebody that can use it,” said Peck, who is the only salaried staff member for the Discovery Shop. She came to her present job at the shop after working with other not-for-profit organizations much as the United Way.

Before that she was a customer and a donor. “Like a lot of other savvy women, I enjoy the thrill of the hunt – finding a beautiful item [for] much, much less than the retail price.  I had always been a fan of the Discovery Shop.”  When the job became available five years ago, she applied for it.  While she enjoyed her time with the Event Zone, which organizes downtown Roanoke events, she calls the Discovery Shop “the best job I’ve ever had.”

Those interested in volunteering with the Discovery Shop can contact Peck at [email protected], or by calling 345-2572.

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