06 Oct The Second Closet – SUMMER IMPACT
The Second Closet
By Kathleen Monahan
In 1930, the Junior League of Tacoma established its longest-running project and fundraiser – Second Closet – which was our thrift store. Until its closure in 2009, it provided the one project that bound the League together as every member was required to donate items for resale and to work shifts at the store. Women met other members who they did not normally work with normally. They were also able to forge the highly touted Junior League friendships we always list as the number one benefit of Junior League membership.
The first thrift shop originally opened on 10th Street. Over the years, the shop had various locations including Market Street, Park Avenue, Tacoma Avenue and Pacific Avenue.
As a fundraiser, the Second Closet helped provide the money for the League’s projects and expenses. As the League grew, more demands were made on the money available, so supplemental fundraisers were started such as Follies and the Annual Auction.
I joined League in 1983 and saw the Second Closet go through many changes. Back then, the JLT office and the Second Closet were both located on Park Avenue. Members were required to donate $100 worth of clothing, housewares or jewelry yearly. Plus they had to work a certain number of shifts. If clothing was donated, the hangers had to be hung facing left. Then the hangers were wrapped with an elastic cord around the hooks. We pinned our name to the cord. Members of the Second Closet Committee evaluated our donations and gave us the value. Of course, this made us a bit nervous about our donations and probably kept us from turning in non-saleable items. Items had to be clean, mended and in working condition.
Junior League thrift shops were known for quality items. Most shops had a policy that the items went out on the sales floor first so customers and members got an equal chance at the merchandise. Most ladies, when working their shifts on the floor at the shop, went home with a few “treasures”. Requirements changed over the years and more donations came from community members and other mercantile outlets. The evaluating of the clothing came to a stop. And eventually, members did not have to work shifts on the floor. Management changed too. There was a Second Closet Committee with a chair and treasurer. Many times, outside people were hired as managers. JLT, throughout the years, provided clothing vouchers for women with job interviews. High school students often interned for job training and volunteer credits.
Some members did not enjoy working at the thrift store but most did. It was a chance to work with friends and maybe find something to buy. It was usually a lot of fun and you had an excellent chance of coming away with a good story. One time, there was even a small dogfish preserved in a jar. Besides being a source of revenue for the League, the thrift shop provided training for its members. Many went on to open their own shops or to work at retail stores. Some found out that the retail life was right up their alley and others that it was not their cup of tea.
The Second Closet moved from the Tacoma Avenue site to Pacific Avenue in 1994. After many years of faithful service to JLT and the community, it closed in 2009. Many of us old Second Closet hands (I served as co-chair when the shop moved to Tacoma Avenue.) felt sad, but have a lot of good memories.
From 1930 to 2009, The Second Closet provided our community the opportunity to shop for affordable and quality items. As members, we have much to be proud of.