Lifestyle & Culture

Gifting for the Good

December 10, 2014

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Photo by Georgina MarreroRIGHT AROUND THE corner from Thomas Sweet’s ice cream store in Georgetown — at 1427 Wisconsin Avenue NW — you can find a consignment shop chock-full of gifting goodies that will thrill everyone on your holiday list this year.

The Christ Child Opportunity Shop, which had begun in people’s homes in the 1890s, was given its current address by the society’s founder, Mary Virginia Merrick, in the 1930s. What started as a thrift store has turned into a higher-end consignment shop.  All proceeds go toward funding the society’s programs for underprivileged children, from infancy through 12th grade, with special focus on Anacostia.

Jay York has been the store’s manager for more than 10 years.  He was joined by assistant manager, Gabrielle Van Massenhove, in 2010.  It has been their goal to “ramp up” the store’s image by focusing their attention on research; that in turn has led to knowledgeable item-pricing based on the age, condition and “designer marketing” of high-end brands such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, J. Mendel, Baccarat, Herend and Meissen.

York and Van Massenhove view the store more as an “antiques adoption agency” than as a consignment store.  The brisk sale of brand names has increased revenues substantially:  Annual profits have gone up 50 percent in the past four years—from more than $1 million to more than $1.5 million.

York specializes in furniture and art; Van Massenhove’s niche is silver, jewelry, ceramics and designer accessories.  At age 15, she had a silver-polishing business, where she learned to distinguish among silversmiths’ marks. She enjoys sharing rare finds with appreciative customers.  Pointing out a 1727 pitcher, she says,  “British silver has fantastic markings!”

This past summer, the store went through a renovation in order to show off the merchandise to its best advantage.  On the first floor, there is now a “Room of Glasses,” as well as neat shelving all around the room.  The cash register — surrounded by a glass case containing costume jewelry costing up to $100 — has been moved to the middle of the room.  Art covers most of the wall space.  Every nook and cranny holds some treasure.

Upstairs, five locked cases hold handbags (including a sizable collection of Louis Vuitton that sometimes spills over into two cases) and ones from Gucci, Longchamp and Kate Spade.  There are also two large cases of semiprecious and precious jewelry.  During my last visit, I spotted a delicate, lovely gold Tiffany wristwatch for  $1,200. This is the place to find Hermes scarves, which generally sell from about $200 to $500.

York and Van Massenhove are assisted by very devoted, friendly, knowledgeable and passionate volunteers, who usually work four to eight hours per week.

The Christ Child Opportunity Shop accepts both outright donations and consignments (by appointment).  The sale of consignments results in a 60 percent split for the consigner (items priced over $300); a 50-50 split for items less than $300. For furniture, it’s also a 50-50 split.  The shop doesn’t accept clothing, appliances, toys or books.  Items remain at full price for 60 days; are reduced by 10 percent after 60 days; and go down another 15 percent after another 60 days (see more details at Christ Child Society of D.C. ).

“Where good deals become good deeds” is the store’s motto.  Take it to heart in this season of giving.

–Georgina Marrero
Georgina Marrero is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. 

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