Bargains to be found amid the castoffs at Castaways

Thrift shop a treasure hunt for shoppers, a resource for needy


Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff The Family and Children’s Service Castaways thrift shop has a new location and a new image on Bath Avenue in Long Branch.CHRIS KELLY staff The Family and Children’s Service Castaways thrift shop has a new location and a new image on Bath Avenue in Long Branch. LONG BRANCH — A winter coat for $20, a suit for $8 or a pair of shoes for $4 may sound like too-good-to-be-true prices.

But those bargains can be found a lot closer than you might think, actually just down the street for most Long Branch residents.

The Castaways thrift shop on Bath Avenue is a well-kept secret in the city.

Family & Children’s Service (FCS) has been operating the thrift shop for 10 years, and earlier this year, it moved to a new building and reopened with a new image.

“Everything is sized now, and I heard that our customers think we are well-organized,” said Deborah Carr, Castaways manager since July. “Though, there are those customers who miss rifling through the items.”

The thrift shop sells good-quality used men’s, women’s, children’s, babies’ and maternity clothing, furniture, blankets, books, shoes, toys and household items at inexpensive prices. All of the items have been donated.

“People have been donating for many years,” Carr said. “Every day, people come in with stuff. They clean out their closets, or when a relative dies, they bring in what they have.

“People are very generous with their donations,” she said.

The shop resembles an ordinary retail shopping store, with not-so-ordinary prices. There are clothing racks arranged by size and style, and Carr said she works hard to pull out the items that she thinks won’t sell.

“We try to ask for good donations,” she said. “We do our best to weed out the items that are stained or missing buttons. We have something to offer all people.”

If an item is damaged but could be repaired, it might be placed in the “Take a Chance” section, where all items are priced for $1.

On the other end of the spectrum is the “Treasure Chest Boutique” where designer label items can be found.

Last week, shoppers at the boutique could find a St. John’s suit that Carr said would cost more than $300 at a retail store, for sale for $35 at Castaways.

“The suit may be a season old, but it is still a classic piece,” she said.

When a donation is made, Castaways puts the donor on a mailing list and a “thank you” note is sent. The list is sometimes used to call the donors when there is a special need for an item like winter coats, Carr explained.

Carr works with about 12 volunteers, who range from high schoolers up to octogenarians, to make sure every group’s tastes are represented.

“Generally, most of it gets out [on display],” she said. “There is a good mix. I really try to rotate things around.”

It’s Carr’s job to price each item, and she has devised a system using different colored price tags each month. If a month goes by and the item isn’t sold, she slashes the price in half and retags new items with a new color.

“I want to be able to keep track of what has been sold,” she said. “There are a lot of locals who shop here. A lot of the same customers come in to look for the new merchandise.”

All the proceeds from the shop support the programs of the FCS. FCS is a nonprofit, grassroots, “neighbor helping neighbor” service that began in 1909, according to Brooke Tarabour, executive director. It has been serving residents from “womb to tomb” (prenatal to hospice) in Monmouth County for 95 years, Tarabour said.

“We serve the community and have been helping people get through life,” she said.

FCS was originally located in Long Branch, but was relocated to Ocean Township for 11 years. In July, FCS moved back to the thrift shop’s original location at 191 Bath Ave. The thrift shop relocated to a new building on the same property.

Having the agency’s offices and the thrift shop located on the same site benefits clients, she noted.

“Now that FCS is right here, it really helps,” Carr said.

Now, if someone comes to Castaways and needs more help than the thrift shop can offer, she is able to refer them to another building on the same property.

“It works both ways,” she said. “[FCS] can send someone who needs clothing to this building.”

Some services FCS provides to the community include adoption services, health-care services, parenting coordinators, reading buddies, and state health insurance program (SHIP).

Places like Monmouth Medical Center, Manna House and the First Baptist Church, all Long Branch, may refer clients for help.

“We provide them with clothes, free of charge,” she said, “maybe three or four outfits to get them on their feet for their new life.

“It’s great being here,” she said.