The folks at Second Harvest Community Thrift Store in Sharpsburg want to do more than sell stuff to the community; they want to make it a better place.
Since opening a year ago, the nonprofit organization — which began as a rummage sale at Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church — has welcomed people from all walks of life.
“It has good vibes,” Executive Director Bonnie DeMotte says. “It’s designed to be a really welcoming and dignified experience whether you need or want to shop there. It’s become a second home for a lot of people, and we just love that.”
DeMotte, who lives in O’Hara Township and has five children enrolled in the Fox Chapel Area School District, calls the place “a first-class secondhand store.”
An army of volunteers sorts through the donations that are dropped off and will pick up small items in Sharpsburg and the surrounding communities for free. There’s a $30 charge for removing furniture and other large objects. The service is available on Mondays and Wednesdays. The shop’s volunteers work two-hour shifts but often stay longer just to hang out.
Customers will find new and gently used clothing, furniture, electronics, appliances, books, records and CDs, toys and home décor. There aren’t bags at the checkout counter, so bring your own to carry your treasures. Second Harvest operates on a high turnover model, with merchandise posted on Instagram and put out on the shelves as it comes in. DeMotte says the store is well-stocked with clothing right now.
In addition to great deals, shoppers will discover a clean, friendly environment with a modern point of sale system and a website that streamlines the donation and volunteering processes.
The board of directors spent several years raising funds to purchase the property. The building, formerly a photo finishing business, was renovated by Strip District-based firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative. The space opened last March and will celebrate its Thirftaversary March 14-19 with door prizes, discounts, snacks and activities.
The 6,500-square-foot facility now features large windows, a meeting area and a rooftop solar array. There is also a parklet out front that is designed to manage stormwater and provide a public green space. By mid-April or May, the outdoor space will have two solar-powered charging stations where people can power up their cell phones.
Artist Sarah Cohen was commissioned by the board to create a large mosaic slated to be installed on the building. The New Jersey native moved to Pittsburgh in 2015 to work as a technical apprentice at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. After a year, Cohen started working in the center’s administration office and eventually opened her own business, PetalVision Glass at the Union Project in Highland Park.
With help from Sharpsburg residents and Second Harvest volunteers, Cohen is assembling the 7 ½ by 8 ½ foot artwork using thousands of tiny tessera mosaic tiles, which were donated by West Virginia’s Paul Wissmach Glass Co. The mosaic design features a sun and flowers.
Cohen is excited to add her creative touch to the economically diverse neighborhood, which is becoming a hub for public art and activism.
Second Harvest offers more than material goods. After a successful first year, the organization donated $20,000 to charities in the region through its Community Development Grant program, including $10,000 to Fox Families Care, $2,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and $1,000 to Backpack for Hunger.
“I think it’s a testament to how the community has embraced the whole concept,” DeMotte says. “We work really hard to provide people with an atmosphere where you can come in and talk. Especially after Covid, it’s extremely gratifying to do work that is benefiting the community.”
Second Harvest is located at 624 Clay St. in Sharpsburg. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
To learn more about local thrift stores, read 31 of the best places for vintage and thrift shopping in Pittsburgh.