St. Mary's Church relocates thrift shop to former convent building

The newly-relocated thrift shop opened on Monday.

Junior Gonzalez
  • The St. Mary's Thrift Shop has relocated to 29 E. College Ave. in York City.
  • The building, a former convent, has several shopping rooms with stained-glass windows.
  • The old thrift shop will be turned into an office for Father Jonathan Sawicki.

St. Mary’s Thrift Shop in York City has relocated around the corner to a larger, more historic location.

The new shop, located at 29 E. College Ave., opened Monday morning during a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included Diocese Bishop Ronald Gainer, according to Sharon Picker, administrative manager for the parish.

The women's section at the relocated St. Mary's Thrift Shop in York City.

The former venue, at 305 S. George St., will eventually be renovated into a new office for the Rev. Jonathan Sawicki, who said the additional office space was badly needed.

“We’re operating in the same office space that was configured this way in the early '70s,” he said.

In that time, Sawicki said, the number of families St. Mary’s serves has nearly doubled from 650 to more than 1,250, including many Spanish-speaking congregants.

“We just need more space,” he said.

Former convent: The thrift shop’s new home has a deep history with St. Mary’s Church. The building was a convent for Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, who assisted at the former St. Mary’s Catholic School as well as York Catholic High School.

The nuns moved into the building in 1926 and resided there for more than 70 years until they vacated the property in 1998, according to Sawicki. Catholic Charities operated from the building shortly after the convent closed and remained until 2012. The church purchased the building back from the Harrisburg diocese a few years afterward, Sawicki said.

What's now the women's clothing room served as the chapel at the former Franciscan convent. The room includes a shoe rack created by a student at York Catholic High School as part of a Girl Scout project.

The new clothing racks in the shop were donated by the clothing retailer Christopher and Banks, and "we’re extraordinarily grateful to them,” Picker said.

There are two smaller rooms with men's clothing, as well as a home goods room filled with dinnerware and appliances. The children's wear room was the living room of the former convent, with a fireplace still on display.

Joanie Nolin, one of several managers at the thrift shop, said Sawicki came up with the idea of using the former convent, which was being used for storage, as the new store.

“Since that old thrift store is attached to the rectory where the priest lives, (Sawicki) said, 'I can use this for extra office space, and you can use the convent for a new thrift store,’” she said.

Nolin said the thrift shop’s relocation has been years in the making, and there was much work to do on the property to make it ready for business.

"We had a lot of work to do in here," she said. “We had people here just two days ago cleaning things up.”

Nolin said several walls were demolished in the upper floors where the nuns had their quarters.

“They were very small rooms,” she said. “Now that's where we do all our behind-the-scenes work.”

The second and third floors are reserved mostly for storage of extra clothing, including off-season summerwear, with a room set aside for price tagging, hanging and steaming of the clothes.

Nolin said more than 80 volunteers contribute weekly at the shop.

"(They) keep this place going," she said.

Outreach: While the revenue raised by the thrift shop goes toward the upkeep of the parish, the shop is also an outreach program.

"Women come here from Access-York, and we outfit them," Nolin said.

Through the shelter for victims of domestic violence, women get a voucher that can be used to purchase clothing and other household items from the thrift shop.

"Anybody who wants to donate their clothing, their housewares (and) shoes can come by. And it doesn't come just from our parishioners,” Nolin said. “People around York know about us from other churches, as well as customers. It's all donated.”

Nolin said volunteers sort through items the shop needs. Whatever the shop can’t use but is in usable or working condition goes to the York Rescue Mission.

One of the stained-glass windows in St. Mary's newly relocated thrift shop in York.

'Wow': “We had a customer (who regularly visited the old thrift shop) walk in, and he said, ‘Wow,’” Sawicki recalled. "He looked around and stared at the stained-glass windows ... it looks classy,” he said.

The relocated thrift shop will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.