Major nonprofit thrift stores in San Diego have been around for decades. Then along came Covid and took its toll.

By David Batterson
Publish Date
Oct. 25, 2021

Two longtime San Diego Rescue Mission thrift stores (North Park and City Heights) closed down. A website sentence states: “Our thrift stores permanently closed on September 27, 2021.” No explanation was provided.

The Rescue Mission’s North Park space will become a divided-up, salon-rental business called Broadway Salon Studios like the Hive in Hillcrest.

Regular thrift shoppers in Hillcrest are still Goodwill-hunting for bargains. Spokesperson Darlene Cossio said, “Although we are facing challenges filling open positions…our essential workers have made it possible…. We have seen more than a 20 percent increase (in donations)”.

Joe Scatena is director of retail operations at Father Joe’s Villages. Their Hillcrest thrift store (1457 University Ave.) was formerly a Baras Foundations thrift shop.

Scatena: “We are struggling with employment issues. We are using alternative staffing methods, such as return-to-work agencies.”

I visited Father Joe’s store October 11, and an employee told me they are “staying busy.” But according to Father’s Joe’s 2020 financials report, only 8 percent of revenue comes from “goods donations and thrift stores.”

Alliance for African Assistance, Safari Seconds Thrift Store in North Park may be on borrowed time. That store relies on a tiny staff plus volunteers.

A source told me they’ll eventually move out, as the landlord will likely sell the building. Located at 2875 El Cajon Blvd., it’s ripe for redevelopment; a craft beer company will open next door.

Assistance League of San Diego is at 108 University Ave. Marketing chair Mary McBride told me, “We have had problems filling staff as we are all retired women, and we cut our open days from Wednesday to Saturday, 11-3. We have managed, however, to make a profit for our philanthropies.”

Rod Legg, executive director at Auntie Helen’s in North Park said they’re now “operating as a super sidewalk sale to keep shoppers, staff and volunteers safe.” He explained their new service: “Our mission evolved [from just a laundry service] during the pandemic to feeding 1600 families per week with free groceries.”

Amvets has a popular outlet at 3441 Sutherland St., just off Pacific Highway. Mike Bledsoe, operations manager, told me that “our stores are hanging in there with all the changes over the last two years.”