Careful Sorting Pays Off for the Second Chance Shop

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If what you expect from a used clothing boutique are flawless fashionable outfits, Second Chance Shop store managers Janeene Crane and Chris Rago are sure they know the formula: adherence to rigid sorting standards and continuous training.

Photo by Ellen Peterson
Shop managers Janeene Crane, left, and Cris Rago in the shop’s sorting room.

“We repeatedly tell our sorters if you wouldn’t wear it or loan it to a friend, then bag it,” said Janeene. That means packing up substandard but still usable clothes for weekly pickup by Big Brothers Big Sisters. Chris said about 85% of donated items make it to the shop floor for sale.

It wasn’t always that way. “Over the years, we’ve become a lot more critical about what we think is appropriate,” said Janeene. “When we began, if a garment was ripped, stained or frayed, some of the older women would say, ‘somebody will buy it’ and put it out for sale. Today we are a lot more particular.” The two managers are continuously training their 16 sorters.

Offsite storage due to cramped quarters

With a sorting room measuring only 130 square feet, they must be creative. “I’m a bit OCD about being organized, but everyone knows that with such limited space, it’s required,” noted Janeene. Twenty plastic bins labeled by clothing sizes line one wall. Janeene regularly transports totes to and from a rented storage unit near the airport. Likewise, she’s continually restocking the floor with seasonal apparel. She color-tags the hangers of women’s tops and knows when they haven’t sold in six weeks. Then off they go to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Janeene and Chris also religiously arrange apparel on display racks by color within sizes.

Chris also supervises the Men’s Department, washing and ironing all the men’s dress shirts at home.

Professional backgrounds

Janeene has been a volunteer for 10 years and Chris for nine. Previously, Chris taught kindergarten for 34 years at Renbrook School in West Hartford. Janeene was an occupational therapist for nearly 40 years, having started at the Easter Seals rehab center in Hartford and retiring from the Hebrew Center in West Hartford. Then she and her husband bought a candle and gift shop in Granby, ran it for 10 years and sold it.

Helping children and the environment

And how do they feel about working at the shop? Chris said, “I like being part of a team that offers attractive merchandise for a good cause, and it’s ecologically correct – reducing, reusing and recycling.” Janeene echoed her thoughts. She admires how the team works to create a nice place to shop knowing that all profits go to The Village for Families & Children in Hartford. The nonprofit offers programs that help protect and raise children.

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