Threads of Hope uses shop-by-the-cart method at outlet stores

CARIBOU, Maine - A new shopping model is being used at the Caribou Threads of Hope store. Kathy McCarty has more on how bulk shopping for housewares and more is helping feed those in need.

Keeping two dozen food pantries in Aroostook County stocked is an expensive venture. Dixie Shaw, Director of Hunger and Relief Services for Catholic Charities Maine, says that's why it's important to keep merchandise moving at their thrift stores. Presque Isle is a more traditional store, open Monday through Saturday. Monticello and Caribou are open alternate weekends, using a different operating model.

Shaw says "It's bulk shopping, and we do very little processing, we just put it out. And we don't have to price it, we don't have to really handle a whole lot, so it's a lot cheaper and faster and quicker to do that. And then the customers can buy a cartload for $25, an extreme cartload for $35, and a double cartload for $50."

Shoppers can also purchase by the bag, at $5 a bag.

"We had to look at, you know, how do we generate the funds we need to feed The County, and, at the same token, get through this stuff quickly, because storage costs were getting ridiculous, and we don't have the muscle power to be able to handle all that stuff, to the degree that we do in our regular thrift store," says Shaw.

Shaw says this is the most effective way to run the stores, given the limited paid and volunteer staff to operate them. Jeanette Searles of Caribou is a regular shopper, buying everything from clothes to a croquet set for some family fun.

"I come and my friends come. I just met my sister-in-law in here. And it's stuff that people have yard sales and they bring stuff here, and they're pretty good prices," says Jeanette Searles.

Shaw says donations are always welcome at all three stores, during regular business hours.