By Tom Griffith
The Rambler likes a bargain. He is adept at finding things either cheap or free.
Older readers will remember the chain of discount stores called Building #19. Its slogan: Good Stuff Cheap. The Lynn branch was popular with immigrants, the poor and those with habits like mine, not conducive to accumulating wealth.
Beverly is a good place for cheapskates. Begin with its sidewalks. If you’re not too fussy about quality, you can furnish a flat with throwaways. I recommend Central Street, my route to the beach. There are several apartment buildings, hence a lot of turnover. When tenants move, they put out treasures.
We got in on the recycling, with a bookshelf we bought at a yard sale on Lothrop Street for $30. It was too big for our living room, so we set it out with a paper sign, $20. Gone in two hours. The honest buyer shoved the money though our mail slot.
As with furniture, so with clothes. Do you know how many consignment shops there are just in downtown Beverly? Neither do I, but it seems like a lot.
My females, wife and daughter, patronize them avidly.
How about food? When we moved to downtown from the suburbs, I bragged that I could finally buy a gallon of milk without driving 10 minutes. Now I walk five minutes to the Dollar Store.
I love dollar stores. They have an infinite variety of cheap tchotchkes that you didn’t know you needed ’til you saw them. Not all items are for a dollar, but they are at least in small multiples – $2 or $3 or $5. And, they have
milk. Milk and cheese and butter and frozen pizza and chips and candy. All the elements of a good diet, from the male point of view.
Where it all comes together – food, clothes, furniture, books – is the thrift shop of the anti-poverty agency, Beverly Bootstraps. My wife volunteers there, so we took a tour. Its history is impressive and humbling.
A digression – I was once sitting out back gazing at the tree line. What drew my attention was the steeple of the First Baptist Church on Cabot Street. It’s the tallest point in Beverly, beautifully lit.
That evening, my eye followed it upward. I recalled an old-fashioned preacher who said he loved driving into little New England towns and seeing the white steeples “like fingers pointing to God.”
His view was confirmed in 1992. God’s essence is compassion, and in that year, the compassion leaked down the Baptist steeple to reach the church secretaries. This was a time of recession, and owing to its central location, a lot of people came through the doors asking for help. The secretaries told the pastor, who told the congregants, who promptly organized a stock of free food in the basement.
The need was great, and soon St. Peter’s Episcopalian was helping out. In 2006, the operation moved to a house on Cabot Street, and in 2016, to a spacious, new building on Park Street.
Our tour guide noted that the thrift store was just one of a huge number of services offered. It’s one-stop shopping for the needy. Food pantry, summer lunch program, food education, back-to-school backpacks, tutoring, ESOL – all have been written up before by this paper. The place buzzes, and after seeing the facilities and meeting the volunteers, we left feeling inspired.
Also a bit jarred, to realize how great the need was in Beverly. Beverly?!
Our guide reminded us that Beverly includes not just the Gold Coast, but Gloucester Crossing, both mansions and public housing. The town’s face has been upgraded lately, but not everyone has shared in the prosperity. In fact, the current boom has made some things worse, by raising land values and rents. In a bad economy, the poor lose jobs. In a good one, they lose housing.
So, Bootstraps applies great resources toward hidden needs (and does so without state funding, which preserves its independence). Let me end, then, with one such need. My wife, Debbie, has focused recently on an item not covered by government subsidies like SNAP – feminine hygiene products. It’s one of the things most requested, yet least donated. It gets overlooked, so she’s launching a Facebook page and distributing drop boxes at local businesses around town. The name: All Women. Period. (I argued for GladPads.)
If you’re like us, you may value the Bootstraps thrift shop for its design, atmosphere, wealth of offerings and low prices. If shopping there saves you money, consider putting some back in an unusual cause.