Soroptomist International celebrates 70th birthday with Curiosity Shop renovations, Your Sisters Closet reopening

By Lynn R. Parks

Soroptimist International of Seaford, founded in May 1950, might be closing in on its 70th birthday. But there's nothing stodgy or stuck-in-their-ways about the club's membership.

This fall, the women's service club is renovating its Curiosity Shop, a thrift shop which is the club's only source of income. The project will include redoing the store's office and kitchen area, painting the walls, reworking the check-out area and tearing out the existing carpet and putting in a new floor. Workers will also install a new, upgraded security system, to keep watch over the store's building and parking lot.

Just a few blocks to the west, on High Street, club members held a ribbon cutting Saturday morning to celebrate the re-opening of Your Sister's Closet, a formal dress rental shop. The shop first opened in 2014 in the Odd Fellows building on the north side of the street, but lost its lease there in the spring when the building was sold. It is now on the south side of the street, where the Weatherd Treasures store was most recently located.

"Our motto is to work to do the best for women," said club president Paula Gunson. Both of these efforts help to further that cause, she added.

The Curiosity Shop ~ officially the Nellie G. Allen Curiosity Shop at Soroptimist Park, named for a charter member of the club and a driving force behind the creation of the Curiosity Shop nearly 60 years ago ~ opened in its current location on Middleford Road in 2002. In 2013, the shop got a 20- by 54-foot addition on the west end of the building, to provide space for donations to be sorted and stored. And this summer, Soroptimist retrofitted the building with energy-saving LED lighting.

The most recent renovation is set to start at the end of next week. The store will shut down Thursday, Sept. 20, and remain closed to shoppers during the work, which is expected to take about eight days. The shop will remain open for people who want to make donations.

To clear out merchandise as much as possible, the store will hold a half-price sale Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 17 and 18. On Tuesday, children's clothing will cost 25 cents per item and adults' clothing 50 cents per item.

On Wednesday, Sept. 19, all merchandise will sell for $3 for as much as a customer can fit in a paper bag. The store will supply the bags, but "they are pretty good-sized," store manager Mary Greer said.

Greer said that the renovations will make the store a nicer place to shop as well as to work. The removal of a half-wall that extends the width of the building will make it easier for shoppers as well as employees to move around, she said. And the new floor and paint will brighten up the retail space.

"Our employees will be a lot better off," she said. "They work hard, and they want a nice place to work in."

Club member Margaret Anderson, who is overseeing the renovation, said that the beefed-up security system will be designed to discourage people from leaving furniture, which the store does not sell, and garbage in the parking lot after store hours. Every item that is left outside and that can't be sold in the store means added costs for the club, which has to pay to have it hauled away and put in the landfill, she said.

The new security system is also designed to discourage people from going through the store's dumpsters. "We are trying to do a service for the community, and that is made very difficult for the staff when we have things like that going on," Anderson said.

Dress shop

Your Sister's Closet started out in 2009 as Cinderella's Closet, which was opened just one Saturday in early spring, for girls who needed prom dresses. Last year, the shop was opened for several Saturdays during spring and again for several weeks in winter. In total in 2017, it rented nearly 250 dresses.

"We want girls who can't afford ~ or who don't want to afford ~ to spend hundreds of dollars on a dress they'll wear just once to have an option," Gunson said.

In May, after the spring rental season and after being notified that the shop would have to move, Soroptimist members packed up the shop's dresses and took them to a warehouse on High Street. During the move, members selected about 200 gowns from the stock that they deemed to be out of fashion for teenage girls. Those were sent to the Curiosity Shop to be sold.

The dresses that the club members kept remained in storage until Weatherd Treasures moved to its new home in Bridgeville. On Saturday, Aug. 18, over the course of four hours, volunteers moved everything from the warehouse into the storefront.

The shop has long formal dresses, on display in the front room, as well as short dresses, hanging in the back room. All of the dresses have been donated to Soroptimist and all are dry cleaned before they are rented out.

Rental is $25. That, as well as funding from the Soroptimist Club, covers costs for the shop. All workers at Your Sister's Closet are volunteers from Soroptimist.

Dresses have to be returned by the Saturday after the event for which they were rented. Returns can be made to Your Sister's Closet as well as to the Procino-Wells & Woodland law office on High Street in Seaford. Donations of gowns can also be taken to the law office, or, if it is open, to the shop.

Your Sister's Closet will be open every Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through Oct. 20. It will also be open Saturdays from Jan. 19 through Feb. 2, and again from March 9 through May 11.

Gunson, who volunteers in the shop, said that she loves to be there, to watch the reactions of girls who visit there. "The best thing is to see them when they first come in," she said. "They've never worn a formal gown ~ maybe they couldn't afford one ~ and when they see what we have, their eyes get real wide. Then they put on a big puffy gown and stand in front of the mirror. The girls know that they're beautiful, but they've never seen themselves look like that before. It is awesome to watch."

For your information

For details about Soroptimist International of Seaford, visit the website siofseafordorg. To follow progress of the Curiosity Shop renovation, go to the Facebook page Soroptimist International of Seaford. Your Sister's Closet also has a Facebook page.

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