When boxes and bags of donations come in, no one really knows what treasures lie within until volunteers begin to sort and price the items, which are put onto the shelves of the 2nd Chance Thrift Shop as quickly as the same day. After covering overhead for the shop and its one part-time employee, the rest goes to the Animal Care League (ACL), a nonprofit animal shelter located south of the Eisenhower.
Kevin Murphy has been overseeing the thrift store for four years. The current location, two storefronts at 808 Harrison St., Oak Park, opened in 2009, but the business started 33 years ago. It features an ever-changing array of merchandise for customers.
This fall, a blue-and-white, matte-glazed porcelain vase came into the shop. Murphy pursued an unsuccessful internet search. He priced the nearly 10-inch-tall, elongated egg-shaped vase with concentric blue, organically shaped lines dancing along it at $3 and put it on the shelf.
Volunteer Anne Carlson came in the next day and began looking at new items.
“She saw the vase and she said, ‘We need to look at this more closely,’ because she had the feeling it called to her,” Murphy said.
Carlson, a longtime librarian, used her researching skills, and found a very similar work at the Telemark Museum in Norway. The 2nd Chance vase, was made in 1950 for Porsgrund Porcelain by Konrad Galaaen (1923-2004), a Norwegian ceramicist.
Determining it must have some value, 2nd Chance consulted Toomey & Co. The Oak Park auction house advises area nonprofits on items they believe may benefit from an expert opinion.
“We’ve always tried to give back to our local community and our art and design community,” said CEO Lucy Toomey. “Value is a big determining factor, or if something is of lower value but has a really nice aesthetic and it fits in with our 20th-century design focus, it may be something we offer in one of our auctions as a courtesy to try to help out nonprofits.”
Toomey & Co.’s Interiors auction in October had more than 700 lots and included the Galaaen vase. Typically, a buyer’s premium, ranging from 25 to 30 percent, paid on top of the gavel price — $325 in the case of the vase — is collected by auction houses to cover the cost of doing business. The vase sold for $422, reaping 2nd Chance $287 after reducing the commission because of their nonprofit status.
According to Toomey & Co., a buyer in Norway acquired the Galaaen vase. “It’s being repatriated,” said John Walcher, vp and senior specialist, early 20th Century Design Department, because it is returning to where the designer is from.
2nd Chance, besides decorative items, has seasonal décor, glassware, antiques, pet items, office and craft supplies, games and puzzles, framed art, houseware and jewelry. There is usually a cat or two up for adoption, too. Total profit from merchandise sold in the shop is approximately 15 to 20 percent, Murphy said.
“We have a guideline structure for the pricing and we do research especially if they are vintage or antique or trending items such as clothing,” said Murphy, an Oak Park resident. “But we never price it for what we see online. We go half off or more.”
When it comes to jewelry, Carlson is the resident expert. She cleans, checks marks, tests and researches the donations.
Toomey & Co. was consulted again recently, this time on jewelry, one of Walcher’s specialties.
At the Jewelry, Silver & Objects of Vertu auction in November, four lots were sold for the 2nd Chance Shop — a brooch by the Kalo Shop, diamond stud earrings, a yellow gold LeCoultre ladies wristwatch and a lot consisting of four pieces of Mexican silver jewelry. The items totaled $1,008. ACL will receive a check on Dec. 31 for an undisclosed amount.
The shop itself is a place of discovery for shoppers, who are invited to give the items a second chance, whether they buy a special item at auction, through their new eBay listings or stop in the shop — just as the Animal Care League gives pets a second chance.