PROVINCETOWN — The town swap shop will reopen at the beginning of May, according to Sherry Prada, deputy director of the Dept. of Public Works.
The town’s familiar trading spot at the transfer station has been closed since November because of an electrical problem, Prada told the Independent by email. When it reopens, it will occupy a new trailer the town is in the process of buying, she wrote.
Speculation that the swap shop might never open again has circulated in Provincetown, spurring some community members to rally around making its return a DPW priority. Ruthie’s Boutique, a nonprofit thrift shop at 14 Center St., has a petition at the cash register to save the swap shop.
Terry Horwitz, who has been volunteering at the Provincetown swap shop for 15 years, created the petition to make sure it is “not lost in the shuffle,” she says. “I wanted to make sure they knew how much people really miss it and really want it.” The petition has more than 200 signatures so far, she said.
When people have an item to donate, “I always ask them if it’s hanger-worthy,” says Ruthie’s manager and volunteer coordinator Dave Hall. There’s no shame when it’s not, and Hall is happy to advise people about where else to bring the item. “Unfortunately,” Hall says, “with the swap shop being closed, I don’t have that as an option to offer them.”
Horwitz says people tell her they are throwing away items that they would normally have swapped. “It’s a great recycling tool,” she says. “Anything good lasts maybe five minutes, 10 minutes,” before being whisked away.
Fashion designer and occasional Independent cartoonist Mary DeAngelis says that when she donates to the swap shop she makes an effort not to pick up something else on her way out. “I have a rule about that,” she says.
Her relationship to the thrift shop at the Provincetown United Methodist Church is different. DeAngelis says she’s developed a deep fondness for the church’s store over the years. She has found, “Whatever I needed was there, miraculously — even if I didn’t know I needed it.”
Methodist thrift shop volunteer Rick Hawkins is also an actor, a retired hairstylist, and the former proprietor of an ice cream shop and a teddy bear store. The thrift shop is a multi-room enterprise that accepts furniture, housewares, appliances, and clothing. “If we get too much of a certain item, we reject it at the back door” as it’s being donated, Hawkins says.
When items come in, Hawkins says, volunteers do research on eBay and Etsy to see what the prices ought to be. Although items tend to be priced at much less than they are worth, people still try to bargain. “But it’s not a yard sale,” says Hawkins. “It’s a thrift store that supports the church and the community.”
Word around town was that with Provincetown’s swap shop closed some devotees had started driving to Truro to satisfy their swapping needs. But according to Truro DPW Director Jarrod Cabral, due to board of health and Dept. of Environmental Protection rules, Truro’s swap shop is open only to residents of that town who have a permit for the transfer station.
According to Truro Board of Health regulations, the ticket for a first unpermitted nonresident swapping offense runs $100, the second offense costs $200, and the third and all subsequent offenses are $300.
Work is one more thing that’s been missed while the swap shop has been closed. Horwitz volunteers there through the Senior Volunteer Work Credit property tax exemption program coordinated by the council on aging. Through that program, property owners over age 60 can work for the town in exchange for an exemption on their real estate taxes, says COA Director Chris Hottle.
There are many jobs that allow residents to receive the exemption, which can reduce their property taxes by up to $1,000 for 71 hours worked. But shifts at the swap shop are coveted, Hall says.
With worries about the swap shop not reopening now assuaged, Hottle says she knows many people who will be thankful for the chance to go back to work.