Ellison Thomas and Vanessa Rucker of Sierra Vista leave with an armful of silk ties from the Thrift Shop at the Fall Festival after discovering they were the collectible J.Garcia brand. Photo by Linda Jade Fong

The stories of finding treasures and surprises happen every week, and after four decades, they continue to amaze.

Take Sandy Bowman, who found herself with an “immense” 11-foot-high antique door that had a lock with no key. She could not find a key to fit, even though she is a restoration specialist with her own inventory of keys. A longtime shopper at Patagonia’s Community Church Thrift Shop, she was doing her weekly browsing one day, and there it was. A key that looked like it might fit. She grabbed it, took it home, and voila!

Or there’s the favorite story of Lars Marshall, popular volunteer at the Thrift Shop. A man came in and asked if the store would take a dulcimer. Lars said, “Sure! Bring it in.” Lars continues, “Would you believe it—the very next person who walked in asks, ‘Do you sell any musical instruments? Like a dulcimer?’ It was just one more happenstance in the Thrift Shop sitting across the courtyard from Patagonia’s “Jewel Box” Community United Methodist Church. 

The volunteer-run Thrift Shop is now celebrating its 40th anniversary. It started in October 1983 in the home of Hilda Blabon on the exact spot where it is now located. The Missions Group of the church wanted to establish an ongoing resource to provide very low-cost household items and clothing to the community. Hilda’s 1906-era house had maintenance problems and was demolished in 1990 and replaced by a new addition to the church. 

Two-year-old Cortez Chiquette of Patagonia in her pink cowboy boots tries out the rocking toy at the Community Church Thrift Shop. Photo by Linda Jade Fong

Still today, out-of-town thrift shoppers marvel over the low prices not found anywhere and come from Tucson to Sierra Vista to make the Thrift Shop a weekend destination.

The diversity within its walls defies its small size. Designer labels and vintage fashions can be found among denim overalls and cowboy boots. Longtime volunteer Georgette Larrouy remembers how a man came in with a desperate need for attire to wear to a funeral the next day and they found everything to outfit him from head to toe.

Whether it’s the six-muffin tin or InstaPot to try a new recipe, wire cutters for a repair job, purple silk cushion for a guest bed, dog leash to replace the one forgotten on a road trip, or The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency novel series you happened to discuss at dinner the night before. These are the type of actual finds that bring forth shared laughter.

Then there’s also the unexpected “wow” treasures, such as the curved, pointed toe Moroccan slippers like the ones the shopper regretted not getting on her vacation, or the rare assortment of 1950s Christmas cards found by Sue Champagne of Green Valley—“I’m a ‘professional’ thrifter and couldn’t believe finding these unused, true vintage cards in this amount and variety, and each with its envelope!”

The funds earned by the Community Church Thrift Shop are distributed to a wide number of local, national and international charities listed on the wall banner. These range from Patagonia’s Volunteer Fire Department, Youth Enrichment Center, Senior Citizens Center, Food Bank, Creative Arts Association, and CHOP to the Nogales Crossroads Mission, UMCOR Disaster Relief, and Tucson VA. Only a small amount goes to the church for utilities. 

Bonnie Quirin, former shop supervisor, notes that the Thrift Shop regularly answers dire calls for help in many other ways. Quickly setting up a local resident who lost everything in a house fire, offering funds to help repair a vandalized mural in the town playground, sending Christmas toys and decorations to a Mexican orphanage, or helping fill a truck headed with warm clothing to victims of Hurricane Sandy in the U.S. Northeast are some examples. 

To help celebrate the Thrift Shop’s 40 years of community service, gift certificates have been donated by local businesses for co-supervisors Nell Richie and Kyle Carey to add to the free raffles they have been regularly holding, including Easter baskets or back-to-school filled backpacks. 

Every year during the Fall Festival, the Thrift Shop expands into the church’s Thurber Hall, making one of the biggest thrift sales in the region.

One of the more fortuitous finds in the Thrift Shop happens to be the current pastor, Rev. Patty Frick. Recently retired from a church in Maryland, she was visiting the Thrift Shop in 2020 when she asked if she could see the inside of the church, and learned there would be an opening for a half-time pastor. She went home and turned in her application. A few months later, to everyone’s delight, the regional United Methodist Church board appointed her here.

People often comment on how in Patagonia, it’s the Post Office and the Thrift Shop that are the free gathering places to mosey in, mingle and catch up. Browsers, donors, and volunteers come from all parts of the community.

The Community Church Thrift Shop is truly a melting pot and one filled with serendipity and laughter. “It’s a town institution that’s reflective of Patagonia, where we are aware of each other and take care of each other,” said Carey.

The Community Church Thrift Shop, located at the corner of 4th and 

McKeown, is open Fridays and Saturdays 10am-1pm. Volunteers are always appreciated to help sort and organize donations on Thursdays 9:30-noon and help run the shop on weekends and special events. Call 394-2730 to drop off donations at times other than above or to request other info.