A line of customers winds its way out the door of Chicken Alley Thrift Shop to the edge of Lagoon Pond Road on Friday. It’s noon and the 15-person line has been growing steadily since 10:30 a.m., a full half-hour before the doors open to the public.

But for Chicken Alley Thrift Shop, it’s business as usual.

“We have been told by thrift shop experts that Chicken Alley is the highest-grossing thrift shop per square foot in the United States,” said shop manager Jessica Tartell, assessing the long line with a smile.

The store is a major source of revenue for Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, helping to fund many of the organization’s programs. Since opening in 1962, the store has become a staple for seasoned buyers and casual window shoppers on the Island, said Ms. Tartell.

Essential goods and clothing still fill the store and are also available online. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“The thrift shop is part of our mission in terms of getting things our clients need and also raising substantial funds for the community,” she said.

Currently, the store is in the middle of its annual Art and Collectibles Sale, originally founded by patron Olga Hirschhorn. Throughout the year, volunteers at the thrift shop look out for special donations of paintings, art, photography, jewelry and more, and curate a sale for a weekend in late August. This summer the sale has gone online, beginning August 12 and continuing through August 31.

It has been a huge success, selling 200 items in the first week alone, Ms. Tartell said.

“We were shocked at the interest we got, and how popular and how successful it was in the first few days,” she said. “It brought us to a point where we realized we needed to get more online.”

But the success of the Art and Collectibles sale, along with the busy summer, was by no means a certainty when the thrift shop had to close its doors in March due to the pandemic. But demand quickly soared for used clothes and household items.

Annual Art and Collectibles Sale was started years ago by Olga Hirschhorn. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“Essentially, while we were closed, we were still busier than ever,” said Ms. Tartell, noting huge spikes in the store’s online sales in the first months of the virus, through sites like eBay and Poshmark.

The store also doubled as a warehouse for Community Services in the early spring, stockpiling emergency materials like diapers and formula for a handful of the agency’s programs.

When the time came to consider plans for the summer, Ms. Tartell said re-opening the store to the wider public was a must.

“There was never consideration of staying closed for the summer, it’s too important to our mission and to the community. It’s more than just the store. It’s a community gathering space. It’s a place where people come to find treasures, but they also come to socialize.”

This summer, with the Boys and Girls Club second-hand store in Edgartown closed along with the Red Cross’ donation bin, Chicken Alley’s role has become even more important.

Manager Jessica Tartell (center), flanked by Opal Wortmann and Bruce Elliot. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“People are waiting in line and then once they come in, they’re buying more,” Ms. Tartell said.

Donations of goods from the community have also skyrocketed. The store has implemented a new reservation system with over 200 people requesting to donate in certain weeks.

“People are sitting at home looking at their things and saying, I need to make the space more friendly, especially the people who are working from home,” she said.

The summer has not been without its challenges, though — namely running a busy store with fewer volunteers than usual.

“We have a volunteer group that’s retired and they don’t feel comfortable bringing outside germs into their home,” explained Ms. Tartell. “We miss our volunteers desperately but our priority is keeping them safe and healthy.”

As summer wanes, Ms. Tartell and her team are already hard at work thinking about how to continue operations into the cooler months. For her, keeping the shop’s doors open through the winter and beyond is non-negotiable.

“We have to do whatever we can to continue to support Community Services, which is doing such vital work in this community,” she said. “It’s a scary time right now and the uncertainty of everything is scary, but we’re getting through.”