EASTHAM — The thrift shop run by the Friends of the Eastham Council on Aging first opened in what had once been a general store on Massasoit Road in 1984. It is the town’s treasure trove for seekers of vintage jewelry, wedding attire, china teacups, and hard-wearing clothing for fishermen. Today, it is in danger of closing.
Thirty-seven years ago, Donald and Virginia Delaney bought the historic but disused two-story building from an estate. Right away, they rented the first floor to the Friends of the COA, who opened the shop. Soon after that, in 1986, the Delaneys placed the property in trust, according to historical records.
“The Delaneys have been really good landlords to us,” said Pat Lariviere, president of the Council on Aging and a volunteer at the shop. But they are seniors now, looking to sell the building, she said. The second floor has long been rented as living space, and the current tenant is a Delaney family member who is preparing to move out.
Lariviere said the thrift shop has thrived because the Delaneys kept the rent very low — she would not say how much — and because all the items it sells are donated.
In its first year of operation, the thrift shop cleared $17,000, which went toward the cost of a new COA building. Since then, the shop has continued to operate at about the same pace, with revenues going to the COA. Lariviere said the shop brought in $20,000 in 2020.
“It would be a very sad thing if we were to close,” she said.
The thrift shop is seasonally open from Valentine’s Day until around Thanksgiving. Its hours are longer in summer, but now it’s a weekend operation, open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Volunteers like Lariviere and Joanne Irish are there most days, organizing, cleaning, and restocking.
Closing, Irish said, “would be devastating to our social life.” For volunteers, she added, the thrift store is “a dedication.”
Even in the off season, Lariviere said, boxes of donations continue to come in, and so do shoppers. Two weeks ago, the shop sold almost $1,000 worth of items in one day.
The shop has a jewelry section on display, but volunteers said there’s still seven drawers full of jewelry that needs to be cleaned and accounted for. One time, someone brought in a box with a 14-karat gold ring in it. Irish particularly liked a six-foot-tall painting of a giraffe that someone once donated.
Most donations are more practical. They’ve also become so plentiful that the thrift shop could really use a bigger home, said Lariviere. “If there’s someone that has space and is financially able, we would greatly appreciate it,” she hinted.
The Delaneys informed Lariviere and the other thrift shop volunteers that they planned to put the building on the market just a couple of weeks ago. Since then, Lariviere and others have been looking for space but finding nothing affordable.
The building itself is a historic landmark, built between 1871 and 1874. It served as a general store for decades, last owned by the Brackett family during the Depression.
“It is about the last of the general stores on the Cape where one can buy almost anything from a paper of pins to a carload of fertilizer,” the Hyannis Patriot reported in 1933, when the store was closing. “The fame of the store is spread over the entire Cape and regret that it is going out of business will be general and genuine.”
George E. Morse bought the building in 1944 and began running a small factory making oven mitts, slippers, and other quilted goods. His wife, Mary S. Morse, kept a small pet monkey that entertained workers and visitors. The factory eventually closed, and from 1971 the property was held in the estate of Mary S. Morse until it was sold to Donald Delaney.