January 6, 2004 > The Discovery Shop
The Discovery Shop
Fight Cancer with a Bargain!
Mari Martinez, manager of the Fremont American Cancer Society Discovery Shop, says that the store is a wonderful opportunity for customers but is not well known among Tri-City residents. Before she applied for her present position, she was unaware of its existence. Now, after five months as manager, she sees the high quality of merchandise that flows through and cannot believe such good bargains could escape so many people. Of course, the volunteers, many of whom have been working at the Discover Shop since its inception in 1996, and current customers are very aware of the treasures that can be found here. The emphasis at Discovery Shop is the resale of high-end items; it is not a thrift shop!
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Discovery Shop. These are the people that accept, sort, and price donations in the back room and decorate and sell in the front of the store. Furniture donations can present a challenge, says Mari. Large pieces need to be evaluated first to see whether there is room in the store and to arrange transportation. At the present time, there are two sofas and a dining room set in the shop. [Note: Mari says there is an urgent need for volunteers with a truck who can pick up these pieces and bring them to the shop.] Since items at the Discovery Shop are restricted to those of high quality in excellent condition and sold at extremely low prices, careful selection is required. Nothing donated is wasted however since Mari says that those items that do not meet the high standards of Discovery Shop are re-donated to other charitable organizations.
Discover Shop shoppers know that when they spot an item they want, they need to act fast. Since the general rule of pricing is at a 75% discount of the original price, and only high quality, near mint condition merchandise is displayed, waiting until tomorrow to buy is usually not an option. Mari says, "Prices are firm, yet everything here is priced to sell." For instance, a large organ in excellent condition with all the original documentation that sold in 1977 for $5,000 is priced at $600! A dining set that originally sold for $2,000 is available for $500! Over one hundred new items a day cross the threshold at Discovery Shop so the philosophy is to find homes for the merchandise quickly. As floor items sell, they are replaced with more recent donations. Customers buy only merchandise shown on the sales floor, so the inventory can literally change by the minute! The combination of high quality and low prices is a winning factor so many shoppers come in on a regular basis to see what is new. "We have some customers that stop by daily," says Mari.
Mari feels fortunate to have a wonderful, long-term group of volunteers. "They have been here a lot longer than I have and know what to do. I am learning from them." Some volunteers enjoy chatting with customers and those who wander in to find out about the shop, while others prefer to work in the back room, sorting and pricing newly arrived items. One volunteer told Mari that she is happy opening boxes and bags of new merchandise since it feels like opening Christmas packages year round. The flow of donations is very strong since many people want to help the American Cancer Society and find themselves with surplus items either from a relative's estate or in their own home.
Asked about the types of items that are displayed at Discovery Shop, Mari says it is hard to name everything since it covers such a wide range - Jewelry, furniture, brick-a-brac, books, artwork, clothing, collectibles, games...any donated item that meets Discover Shop standards. "As they say," quips Mari, "one person's discard is another person's treasure." Although shoppers are interested in bargain prices, the quality is always high. "We have a lot of name brand suits and clothes, some that have never been worn. This is an upscale resale store that has no resemblance to thrift stores. Our Discover Shop is bright and attractive. We carefully sort everything that comes to us, so customers shop for the best merchandise possible." Mechanical items and appliances are generally not accepted at Discovery Shop although a VHS recorder recently reached the showroom floor and quickly sold. Since store policy is "no returns and no exchanges," Mari wants to be sure that everything sold is in good condition. Occasionally, cameras, video games and other electronic items are available at Discovery Shop. The rule at this store is to be vigilant and stop by often!
Every contributor to Discovery Shop receives a receipt that gives credit for their donation. Proceeds from sale of their items, after store costs, goes to the American Cancer Society to further its goal of eradicating cancer as a major health problem through research, education, advocacy and service. Those who have used the services of the American Cancer Society, their friends and relatives are strong supporters of the shop.
It takes a lot of volunteer hours to run Discovery Shop. Mari says that about 45 volunteers work at the Fremont store, but there is always a need for more help. Most volunteers work about a half day per week, but flexible arrangements for greater or fewer hours are possible. Positions are available as cashier, sales, screening/pricing, display, clerical/bookkeeping, data entry, marketing, public speaking, computer work, and help with special events. The number one current need is for someone to pick up furniture, but other help is needed too. Although many volunteers are retired, there are some young workers as well. One volunteer spends time at the shop after her high school classes are finished for the day. Most have been "touched by cancer" in some way, either as cancer survivors or family and friends of cancer victims.
Mari and the volunteers at Discovery Shop invite the community to come by and see the treasures waiting for them. Mari says that once someone visits and becomes aware of the quality and excellent prices, trips to the shop become a habit. She encourages those who are thinking of donating items to drop by and talk with her or any of the volunteers to find out what will be acceptable for donation. Visitors often come by to chat about cancer issues. Since many store volunteers are either cancer survivors or have personal experience with cancer treatments and issues, there is always time to pass on information. Although the store is not an administrative office for the American Cancer Society, several brochures are available here with contact information.
Whatever your motivation, a visit to this shop is an opportunity to shop for incredible bargains and help the American Cancer Society as well - an unbeatable combination. This is definitely a place to put on your weekly "to do" list!
39288 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont
(Raley's Shopping Center)
Monday - Saturday: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
(donations accepted during store hours)