After some operational changes and closures due to COVID-19, a small thrift store tucked away on Kensington Avenue is open and ready to serve.
Marie’s Closet is a free-of-charge thrift store that offers clothing, housewares, and linens. It is operated by volunteers and managed by the St. Francis Inn, a religious organization that has been providing meals and additional services in Kensington since 1979.
Originally called “St. Benedict’s,” St. Francis Inn opened the thrift store in 1979, then located on Girard Avenue in Northern Liberties. It was primarily managed by volunteer Marie McCuen. McCuen died in 2007, and St. Benedict’s closed its doors in July 2015. But there was a desire by the organization to reopen the thrift store and move it closer to Kensington where St. Francis Inn’s soup kitchen is located. Marie’s Closet, named in honor of McCuen, opened in September 2015.
Until recently, the store served approximately 200 people every other week. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Philadelphia, St. Francis Inn prioritized its meal program, causing Marie’s Closet to close its doors. The absence was notable.
“I saw a man come up to the window with our pants, because it still had the tag,” said Stephanie White, director at Marie’s Closet. “And all I kept thinking was that this man has been in the same pants for a month. And that really bothered me.”
Marie’s Closet is open to the community but primarily serves people who may be low-income or experiencing homelessness. Most importantly, the staff want shoppers to feel a sense of normalcy when browsing the store, White said.
“I get a lot of satisfaction when people leave with something they’re really happy to have,” White added. “And even if you treat people with kindness for ten minutes while they’re in the store, it sometimes might be the only bit of kindness they might get that day.”
The store reopened on May 15 but still hasn’t reached its previous number of customers. To draw in more people, Marie’s Closet increased their operating days from two days a week to three and created a new Instagram page.
Due to the pandemic, only volunteers are allowed inside the store on certain days. Previously, shoppers could come in and browse the selection themselves.
Marie’s Closet is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays between the hours of 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m at 2439 Kensington Avenue. On Mondays and Thursdays, volunteers only take orders at the door. On Wednesdays, only one family at a time is allowed to come in and browse.
Donations can be dropped off during operational hours at Marie’s Closet or St. Francis Inn. Donation needs at Marie’s Closet include the following:
White said that while they regularly have women’s clothing in stock, they are always in need of more men’s clothing.
Editors: Zari Tarazona, Claire Wolters / Designer: Henry Savage
Kensington Voice is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.
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