After a brief hiatus, our Angel Boutique Resale Shop reopened, and with a new store manager at its helm. Read our interview with Rebecca Ryan (below) to learn more about the Angel Boutique and her vision for amplifying its already significant role in the community:
Tell us a bit about your background before working at the boutique.
I actually have my own business, The Tune Tailor, writing songs for people for all sorts of different occasions. Most recently, I wrote a song for a family whose mom had just turned 75, and I’m working on a score for a short film right now. So, music has been my passion my whole life and I play around town of it. Work-wise, I started out in library management working with a few different libraries, like Washington University Law Library, and John Marshall Law Library in Chicago, where I was circulation manager. I got a lot of experience managing the student workers and the staff there. I also worked with the Foster Grandparent program, which is a nonprofit that pairs seniors with different youth in need, or nurseries and organizations that are connected with Guardian Angel, like the Head Start programs. So it’s really a great organization, because it helps to seniors gives them something fun to look forward to.
How did you first encounter Guardian Angel, specifically the Angel Boutique, and what were your impressions of the organization?
Well, I’ve always been a thrift store junkie, and started out as a patron. But what really stands out to me, as an employee, was how helpful and welcoming everybody’s been, with me, and with each other. Everyone’s always willing to help out, they’ll go out of their way to come to you to ask if you need help with anything, which has been really been great.
What’s been your favorite part of working at the Angel Boutique so far?
The people. The people I work with and the patrons because it’s every walk of life. And I love people and I love people watching. It’s definitely my favorite part.
Now that the store has reopened, what are some new things you’re looking forward to doing?
I really would like to have different events that introduce the store to people who may not be familiar. I thought of doing things like a DIY workshop where someone could come in and show how to make quilts out of t-shirts, or something similar that would be relevant to our merchandise, which would be a fun thing to have in the store. I’m also interested in incorporating local artists by maybe having a little section where everything is made from those artists, from prints, to music, to jewelry, so people think of the store as a place to come for things made by local artists.
Speaking of local artists, how was Lo-Fi day?
It was really fun. You know, they only play one song each, so there’s a lot of setup. They had what looked to be movie quality equipment, so it was a really cool spectacle and people walking by outside would come in. We put a bunch of chairs out and by the time Boxcar was ready to perform, the whole store was filled with people. I’m really kind of amazed at how much the store means to the community, because people have been coming in and saying “Oh my gosh, we’re so glad you’re open.”’ So there was a lot of that at Lo-Fi for our grand reopening day.
What are some things you’ve learned since working at the Angel Boutique?
As I get more acquainted with everything this organization encompasses, I feel that there will be a lot of cross-pollinating opportunities. For instance, one of our volunteers is a retired gentleman and he just said the other day that he would be happy to help with resumes, and that would be connected with the job skills aspect of social services that Guardian Angel Settlement Association provides. So I feel like the longer I’m here and get to know exactly what our parent organization’s needs are, there will be lots of ways to get people involved, not just in the store, but also to help out in other ways.
What are some new relationships the boutique is looking to form within the community?
I know we’re definitely looking to form new partnerships, but I still have a lot to learn around here, so I haven’t fully explored what the existing relationships are, especially in regard to volunteers- they play a large part in running the store. Our part-time cashier and myself [the store manager] are the only paid employees and the rest are volunteers. So, I’m looking forward to reaching out to different businesses and different schools. I think there’s a lot to be learned in terms of running the shop and seeing how a nonprofit works, so it could be a really great internship for someone too.
Who would be the ideal volunteer for the Angel Boutique?
I think we have tasks that would appeal to different types of people. You know, one of the things I try to do is find out what people like to do and what their personality is. If they’re more introverted and prefer not to talk to customers, maybe it’s a better fit for them to work in the back. If they’re really outgoing and great with people, then it would great for them to help out with customers. In some cases, we’ll be working with adults with an IDD (Intellectual Developmental Disability) who may have physical limitations, so obviously we want to be very aware of what someone’s needs are in terms of something like how long it’s okay for them to stand on their feet. So, in terms of the ideal volunteer here, I don’t really know if there is one. We have so many different things that need to be done and we’re just thankful for anyone who is willing to donate their time, because we really, really depend on them for the store to be successful.
In addition to shopping at the store and volunteering to work at the store, what are some other ways people can support the Angel Boutique?
Donations absolutely support us. People are so generous and a lot of it still has the tag on it, so it’s really great stuff. Anything that is in nice shape and still has some life that somebody else can get get some more mileage out of, is exactly what we love. And it’s all going back to Guardian Angel Settlement Association, so it’s good for everyone because people feel good donating since they know it’s going to a great cause, and it’s great for us because, of course, it helps our mission.
Is there anything else you’re looking forward to?
The opportunities for this place are kind of endless. The store really has a lot of potential for all sorts of community interactions. We’re moving to the new social services center in late fall/early winter, so that would be a really great time introduce some of these new ideas to the community, if we end up developing those things in the store. We’ll all be in the same building, which is really nice. We have such a huge space here. Right now, our social services department is upstairs, our overflow merchandise is in the basement, and we do have a freight elevator, but one of the pluses of the new building is that everything will be on one floor, including our store room. So I think, we’ll see more of the social services people and that will be nice. It’ll just be really great to have everything on the same floor.