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Worcester Small Business With Heart: Clark Community Thrift Store

Friday, July 05, 2013

 

Clark grads Rachel Gerber and Alexa Lightner start-up thrift store has become a Worcester community staple.

A joint collaboration between Clark University students and their school has resulted in a vibrant small business that does good on numerous levels. The Clark Community Thrift Store (CCTS) is a non-profit, student-founded and student-run business that serves Clark University as well as residents of Main South. The store provides clothing and other items including electronic, books, furniture, and housewares at affordable prices as part of its sustainable-business goal. CCTS works to defer consumption and waste while encouraging recycling and giving back to the community, as all profits support the Clark University Sustainability Initiative.

Student-inspired business

CCTS is the brainchild of two Clark students, Rachel Gerber ‘11 and Alexa Lightner ’11, who won a grant to open the store through an entrepreneurship contest in 2010. Gerber and Lightner’s vision was for the store to provide students and Clark’s neighbors with ways to attain used goods at low prices, while also allowing them to recycle their own used items in a sustainable way. This mission has expanded as the thrift store has grown into a more connected community, according to manager (and Clark graduate student) Sam Bryson-Brockmann, who sees the store as an example of a stable business that teaches people and universities that it is indeed possible for a student-run thrift store to be successful and have a significant impact upon the community.

The relationship between Clark and CCTS is an incredibly important part of its history and its continuing growth. For instance, Clark supported the opening of the thrift store by providing a subsidized building, formerly a pharmacy, to house the facility. The store also provides jobs for students from the Clark campus, since only Clark students serve as its paid staff. But CCTS partners with the Worcester community just as heavily as, if not more than, the university. The store seeks to create and develop a community space where Clark students and Main South residents can come together, whether they are volunteering at the store, browsing its selection of items, or attending the store’s events.

Many missions

Bryson-Brockmann believes that part of the store’s vision is also “to get youth prepared for retail by providing them with experience.” CCTS aims to accomplish this by investing in the youth community, working with programs through the Worcester Youth Center and Regional Environmental Council to place Worcester youth in the thrift store. This further helps support the store’s mission to help integrate the Clark community and the Main South community, and highlights its community-oriented culture.

CCTS is certainly one-of-a-kind, as a sustainable student-run and student-founded business that fully supports multiple communities, but it also stands out for its unique mix of items. Since the store relies on donations from Clark students and faculty as well as residents of the neighborhood, it offers an exchange of fashions more commonly found on Clark campus’s with some distinctive styles of the Main south community. For Bryson-Brockmann, this mix of donations helps CCTS break away from any stigma attached to thrift store clothes. He views this eclectic collection as being a huge draw for the diverse types of people who choose to volunteer and be a part of the thrift store, explaining that they are a “tight-knit group that sustains itself over the years.” Clearly, the Clark Community Thrift Store has achieved that which its name suggests: it is truly a part of the Clark Community.

The Clark Community Thrift Store is located at 945 Main St. 508-751-5946. Open Thursday-Sunday, 12pm- 4pm.

 

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