It is a jump-and-shout scavenger hunt. Turn left and find a canvas dog tote, turn right and snap up the wooden Bavarian candle chime, search the bin on the bottom shelf and discover an ice cream scoop with a pink pig-shaped handle.
Unlike shopping at off-Island second-hand shops — a clandestine activity where people use stealth to slip in and out — the treasure hunt that goes on at The Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club Second Hand Store on North Summer Street is a noisy, show-and-tell affair. Whether for frills or for necessities, bargains are celebrated and there’s a tacit understanding that shoppers have license to approve or veto each other’s choices.
With a contagious smile and infinite patience, Kevin Ryan, manager since 2011, welcomes people and tells all to help themselves to the coffee and cookies on the counter. He is everywhere at once, waves of energy spinning off him as he finds what’s being sought, picks up, delivers, and uses his developed expertise to get a teak chair into the back of someone’s car.
A customer corners him to lament that she was just told the table lamp she came back for sold yesterday. His tone is philosophical. “If you miss out, you miss out. With a store like this, you have to know that what you end up with was meant to be.” He ends by flashing a comforting smile.
This month the store spills over with Christmas ornaments and decorations, holiday linens, glassware, party games, an animated elf, candles, felt reindeer antlers (works for family pets or people), everything that twinkles and shines. A large completely decorated artificial Christmas tree stands fully trimmed with ornaments and lights ($200). Another looks-too-real to-be-artificial tree is $75.
Turn around and discover something you need: switch plates, a faucet, a bedframe and headboard, baby paraphernalia or bike helmets. Turn around again and discover something you never considered getting, but, surprise, you gotta have. Gotta have that colonial-style lantern, that George Forman grill, bird house, old fashioned electric chandelier. Gotta have that Super Heterodyne Eleven radio set in a wooden cabinet ($125), the $200 sectional couch and the bragging rights that go with it. On the Island, if you give someone a compliment about what they’re wearing, they’ll most likely tell you how little they paid for it.
A perfectly coiffed woman wearing a sweater jacket that probably cost as much as the Edgartown shop’s entire downstairs clothing inventory, holds up a pitcher to show her companions. Islanders love to show off their finds and celebrate their thrift. You could probably find similar items on sale somewhere else, but then you wouldn’t do a happy dance all the way to the register the way you do here.
On this day, there’s a festive air as clusters of people — novices and regulars — come and go. The furniture that’s stacked outside across the street on North Summer street has attracted attention: a maple chest and hutch, two end tables and some cattail chairs. A bin outside the door with a sign, “Free” is filled with lampshades and a row of lamp bases, each with a “Free” pink Post-it attached. Also free today are golf bags and clubs. Come and get them. And once a month there is a Bag Sale where for $20 you get to stuff a large yellow plastic bag with all it can hold and take it home.
A social corner forms near the register. One women settles into a chair to receive callers, her Plott hound parked between her feet. Another women holds court with her well-behaved Bichon Frise, who’s indifferent to the goings-on. Someone enters the store, reaches across the counter and gives Mr. Ryan a hug, says “Thank you,” and then quickly leaves.
Mr. Ryan takes a visitor on a quick tour of the clothing that fills the downstairs, quoting prices and pointing out some particularly handsome garments. Winter coats for adults, $10. Labels such as Brooks Bros., Ralph Stewart, Eddie Bauer, Talbots, Ann Taylor, Jones of New York, are marked down to little more than giveaway. There are ball gowns for New Year’s Eve, ski suits and a lot of children’s clothing. One heavyset man finds a tuxedo jacket and a topcoat. Perfect fit. Happy dance.
Mr. Ryan and his staff, Tim, Jackie and Amy, and volunteers Joanie, Franny, Debbie and Kimberly are dedicated to seeing that the shop as well as the clothing is fresh and clean. Franny launders whatever needs cleaning. The enthusiasm of the group is obvious in their effort to provide support to the Boys and Girls Club’s programs, its summer camp, athletic activities and afterschool programs. Also paramount is being able to respond to Islanders’ needs.
“If you’re in trouble,” Mr. Ryan says, “come see us.”
Mr. Ryan, who was a department manager at A&P and worked at an Island bank, says, “I’ve had more fun in the past two years than in the past 25.” He adds, “We really do make a difference.”
A smiling young man comes to the register to purchase the pair of drumsticks he’s found — just what he needed — while the boy with him holds his treasure — a wooden gavel. Happy dance.
The Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club Second Hand Store, North Summer street, Edgartown: Open Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 508-627-5683.