By SHERRY JACOBSON
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS (AP) —Out of the Closet Thrift Store is not your average resale shop.
Instead of signaling a retail decline, as such shops sometimes do, its grand opening last weekend on Cedar Springs Road in Oak Lawn turned into a noisy celebration.
In attendance were two Dallas City Council members, the head of the county health department and a staff member of a local congresswoman. They gave fiery speeches and then headed indoors to do some shopping.
The big attraction was that this thrift store is operated by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the largest private, nonprofit provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the nation and the world. The shop will not only sell used clothing and furniture but will offer customers free HIV testing and counseling.
On opening day Saturday, April 19, the shop tallied nearly $10,000 in sales and 64 HIV tests.
“There were people accessing the tests who needed it,” Bret Camp, the foundation’s regional director for Texas, told The Dallas Morning News. “We did have positives.”
The shop’s location in a neighborhood decimated in the early years of the AIDS epidemic was not lost on many of its customers and supporters.
“This is where the HIV fight began,” Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, told the crowd. “Oak Lawn and the HIV service community started the fight that’s still going on today as we try to lower the high HIV infection rate in Dallas County.”
The shop sits where Union Jack, a men’s clothing store, had operated for 40 years. It is nestled among seven bars that cater to the LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community and a number of restaurants and shops.
“We’re really happy to see it on the street,” Alan Pierce, president of the Cedar Springs Merchants Association, said of the new thrift store. “It should mean a lot more daytime traffic.”
Thrift shops can be big business for AIDS service groups, which often rely heavily on donations and local fundraising efforts to cover their costs, Camp said.
Nationwide, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation operates 22 thrift stores, which brought in $11.7 million in revenue last year. Ninety-six cents of every dollar goes to cover medical costs at the agency’s 72 clinics around the world, he said.
Every new store “gives a community the opportunity to be part of the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Camp said. His group operates two local medical clinics, one in North Dallas and another in Fort Worth.
Eventually, the Cedar Springs shop will have a small pharmacy that serves AIDS patients and the general public.
The shop’s success will depend not only on customers willing to buy used items but on those willing to donate similar items for sale. In other cities, retail outlets are donating unused merchandise, which can be sold at lower prices.
“We were really excited to see people come into the shop and buy things in the morning and then go home and clean out their closets and donate other items back to us in the afternoon,” Camp said. “All the racks were replenished by Sunday.”