SOUTH BEND — North county's HAVA thrift store is open and busy.

HAVA (Harbor Association of Volunteers for Animals) officially opened its thrift store doors on Monday, Sept. 30, and it wasn’t long before the first customer trekked in, a gentleman from Seattle. A steady stream of HAVA patrons and others who learned of the opening via Facebook kept the staff busy throughout the day.

Prime location

The thrift store sits at the corner of Robert Bush Drive (U.S. Highway 101) and Memorial Drive in South Bend in an old bank and office building. The thrift store doubles as the pet food bank to take some of the strain off of the shelter in downtown Raymond.

"I went down this morning when they first opened,” HAVA President Dee Roberts said. She said co-manager Dyana Lovato "is very pleased and I am beyond happy with how nice it looks down there. Dyana and Kayla have done an amazing job, they are co-managers of the thrift store.”

According to Roberts, the thrift store will be open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. If business increases, HAVA will reevaluate if they need to be open more days with a goal to eventually be open five days a week.

“We will be accepting donations,” Roberts said. “But only while we are open or if arrangements are made through the HAVA line for someone to meet them there. We are also starting to schedule volunteers so we ask that people who are interested in volunteering to reach out. They can call the HAVA line and one of the co-managers will call them to schedule an interview or if they feel more comfortable with me they can call me directly at 360-589-9451.”

There will be an age limit of 18 for volunteering at the thrift store and HAVA will soon have some sort of application process, according to Roberts. The duties for the position will include sorting, placing items, keeping the store tidy, cashiering, reconciling the till at night, and other general operations.

Prices set but reasonable

HAVA organizers originally weren’t sure if they would charge set prices for items or continue the "by donation charge" that was the standard at the monthly garage sale.

“It will be set prices,” Roberts said. “I talked to our accountant and the reason for that is we have to charge tax, we have no choice. The Department of Revenue requires it and I thought maybe we could go around it by doing donation only. The accountant thought ‘they might be able to get by temporarily but eventually it would catch up to them.’ We decided it would be best to just start out doing it the right way. We purchased a cash register that figures the tax right in.”

The thrift store is only accepting cash and checks at the moment but if the business does increase steadily they will look into getting a point of sale system to process debit and credit cards.

Hoping to replenish funds

HAVA annually spends around $150,000 on shelter operations, the pet food bank, and an endless train of vet bills. The funding has largely relied on three annual fundraisers, the former monthly garage sale, and donations.

“A thrift store had been something I was thinking about,” Roberts said. “I hadn’t brought it up to the board. The monthly garage sales were very labor-intensive. It was a lot of work and it was in a bad location. It was very difficult because you never knew what the weather was going to be like. It was hard to get people to help.”

Roberts continued, “when I am driving I do my best thinking and one day I was thinking ‘what if we opened a thrift store.’ The idea goes back to the beginning of how HAVA started with Jetty Cats in Westport and how Shirley opened a thrift store to help make money to support it. I thought ‘you know what if we did a thrift store’ because then we could have all of our stuff in one location. We could be open a few days a week. We wouldn’t have to do this in and out back-breaking work.”

Roberts then tossed around the idea for a couple months before she brought it up to the HAVA Board and had an overwhelmingly positive reaction from board members. She then started looking for a location for the thrift store knowing it needed to be in an accessible and high traffic area. In time, she was able to work out a deal with Investments 101 to secure the current location under a one year lease.

“Truthfully, I am trying to set HAVA up for the long term,” Roberts said. “I am not going to be here forever. I hope to be out celebrating retirement here in a few more years.”

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