Once Again Shoppe is Penn Yan's Shopping Mall

Gwen Chamberlain
John Bloch looks over a science kit that includes a telescope and microscope.

Don’t you wish there was a place to combine the fun of shopping with the gratification of knowing you’re helping a number of community organizations at the same time you are reducing waste by reusing and recycling?

There is, right here in Penn Yan — The Once Again Shoppe.

The East Elm Street building, formerly the Danish Brotherhood building, is home to this second hand shop full of treasures and bargains. But regular shoppers here say they always find so much more than a good buy.

John Bloch, who visits the store three to four times per week from his home in Dundee, says he’s been coming to the store for 15 years. He likes to buy toys to fix up and give to children or watches he can tinker with.

While he had a hard time deciding what his most memorable purchase has been, he looked over a telescope and microscope set. “I always wanted a telescope when I was a kid,” he said.

At the back of the store, another frequent shopper, Phyllis Hoagland of Penn Yan, was catching up with one of the volunteers.

“It has more to offer than just selling things, it’s a great place to share and meet people,” says Hoagland. She finds satisfaction in the company she can keep in the volunteer-operated store. “It’s a place to come and see each other. It’s part of the culture of Penn Yan. I have always told Barb (Pringle, the manager) if they had a coffee shop here, people would never go away.”

Across the store, Marlene Butler browses through women’s clothing, comparing colors and labels. She boasts that most of the outfit she’s wearing was purchased at the Once Again Shoppe, an economic help for someone looking for a job.

The clothing racks are stocked with a wide variety of quality clothing, including labels like Liz Claiborne, Sag Harbor, Covington, Talbots, Old Navy, Worthington, Alfred Dunner, Dockers and Woolrich.

But there’s much more than clothing. While his mother and grandmother looked through clothing and shoes, Dakota Green had fun checking out the toys that fill a back corner of the first floor.

In a ground floor room, just off the first floor, used furniture, including tables, chairs, a sofa dressers and bureaus are displayed.

On the second floor, out of season clothing items fill a couple of rooms, but other rooms are brimming with books (In 2007, the store sold $600 worth of books — most priced at 10 cents each), kitchen gadgets, knick knacks and brick-a-brack.

A microwave for $10, a stereo for $15 a Coleman sleeping bag for $10 or a coffee maker for $2.

“There’s a lot down here. Ever since Ames (department store) closed, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of people who come here to shop,” says Wanda Wood, who serves on the board of directors. “It’s amazing. If the merchants knew how many people came in and purchased things, I think they’d be jealous.”

The numbers prove The Once Again Shoppe appeals to local shoppers. Roughly 2,000 shoppers per month cross the threshold, according to Pringle. And that’s with the store only operating Wednesday through Saturday. Pringle says Wednesday morning is the busiest time because the shop has been closed two days while volunteers sort donations that came in on Monday and Tuesday. This time of year may be a little slower than the busy summer season, when people bring in donations left over from yard sales. But two volunteers were still busy sorting through donations of new and used clothing items. Volunteers have an early look at the items as they arrive, but are only allowed to buy one $4 bag of clothing per week.

All the items are sorted, organized and sold by a group of about 80 volunteers.

Garment items that aren’t suitable for reuse are sold to St. Pauly, a Rochester company that recycles such items.

Proceeds from the sale of items donated and sold through The Once Again Shoppe supports programs for a variety of organizations, such as:

• The Penn Yan Area Council of Churches: Jail Ministry Fund, Office for the Aging bus for Sunday church transportation, Link-to-life and Meals-on-wheels

• Red Cross: Wish Fund, Utility/Fuel fund

• Food/Utility for the Needy Fund

• Yates Concert Series, INC.

• First Aid Closet

• Keuka Housing Council for small projects

• Humane Society of Yates County

• Closet of Hope

• Penn Yan Fire Department

• Yates County Volunteer Fire Police Association

• Penn Yan School for lice kits

• Yates County Cancer Support Group

• ProAction of Steuben and Yates Counties: for new bus for medical transportation and  for Sunday church transportation

Wood says volunteers give an estimated 10,000 to 11,000 hours in 2007 and three paid employees — Pringle, Bill Turner, who uses his own truck to pick up and move furniture, and Shawn Radka, who helps move items around the store and loads and unloads trucks and elevators. 

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Evelyn Jensen (left) is one of the volunteers who works behind the check-out counter.