by Tom Sims
At the end of this article is a review by Lorie Lewis Ham of the recent Eisley concert that took place at the Neighborhood Thrift Store & Cafe.
Anthony “Ap” Armour, Bryan Feil, and Garth Richards cannot tell you who “runs” Neighborhood Thrift. What runs the organization is a sense of mission and a vision for what the ministry can and does accomplish in people’s lives. They describe themselves as a “triumvirate,” formed around a common purpose to launch a bold venture in the heart of the Tower District of Fresno.
Neighborhood Thrift, now with two locations, appears, on the surface, to be a thrift store ministry. It is much more.
On the wall of the office behind Bryan’s desk, is a white board. On that board, these words are written:
“Business Statement: Leading people into sustainable lifestyles through holistic development so that they can become viable resources for their homes, neighborhoods, and communities.”
The short version is that the initial vision of Neighborhood Thrift, a non-profit corporation, was to be a jobs program. Yet, even that is evolving and expanding.
Launched with the encouragement and support of The Well Community Church and Every Neighborhood Partnership in March of 2008, the organization is governed by a board of directors and managed by Armour, Feil, and Richards who collaborate on decisions and work in their own three areas of giftedness and skill.
Specifically, “Ap” is the General Manager who “moves resources,” Garth is the Project Manager who does what project managers do, and Bryan is the Director who manages partnerships. There seems to be a concerted effort to avoid a chain of command and create synergy.
The formal statement of their mission reads, “To grow a successful business by selling mostly used goods at an affordable price so we can promote an atmosphere of community and help the community succeed economically.”
Neighborhood thrift is a successful, well-managed, and sustainable thrift store business. It now has ten full-time employees from the neighborhood, an impressive flow of traffic, two locations, a busy coffee shop, and a central location.
Dawn Steele of Fresno’s Leading Young Professionals recognized a recent achievement on their Facebook “wall.”
“Just wanted to say Congrats again to Neighborhood Thrift for being the winner of the Fresno’s Leading Young Professional’s Serve Award this year! You guys do incredible work in the Community and we are excited to presenting you with this well deserved award!”
It also has an entrepreneurial vision.
“Ap” (pronounced A-P, like the letters), puts the strategy in the form of a question, “How do we make people’s junk, in their garages, into paychecks for the people in our neighborhoods?”
As a result, Neighborhood Thrift is able to employ people, train, them, and help them to develop sustainable lives. All of this results in transformation. People need a place to show up in the morning. They need to do meaningful work in the community. They need life skills.
The people who serve and are served by the ministry are hard working, but marginalized human beings. They are “diamonds in the rough.”
Examples of success include a formerly homeless woman who is now a productive and valuable full-time employee. She has found faith and family. The leadership team has been encouraged to watch her grow and to see a friendship develop between her and a volunteer from North Fresno who has adopted her into her own family.
“Business,” according to “Ap,” is “just creating transactions between two parties.”
Bryan calls these, “win-win situations.”
The goal is to be a steward.
Every decision made by the team passes through two filters:
1. Life transformation and
2. Benefit to the community
To keep it all grounded, Bryan conducts a Bible study before work every Tuesday morning. In that context, the spiritual underpinnings for the ministry are reinforced and people are introduced to the prime motivation for why the team serves and calls others to service.
A common denominator for the “triumvirate” is Fresno Pacific University. Another is the “Pink House” of “Fresno Institute for Urban Leadership”. That ministry provided a background in urban ministry. At the “Pink House,” young adults live in Christian community and work in urban settings, returning home in the evening to reflect upon their experiences in a practical and theological context.
A more recent development at Neighborhood Thrift is their coffee house or Cafe in the Tower District, attached to the store on Olive, which can seat up to 180 people. With daily free internet and 5-6 entertainment events per month, the team says, “We want it to be the living room of the Tower District.” They are currently working with local music promoters to expand this part of the ministry.
Their vision does not end there. They have a “heart for developing other businesses,” according to “Ap.” The model is “Asset-Based Community Development” and one of their heroes is John Perkins, father of the Christian Community Development movement.
As Perkins teaches, Garth, “Ap,” and Bryan all live in the community. The people with whom they work are their neighbors. They are developing the people around them and the people around them are, in return, developing them. It is mutual and Jesus Christ is in the center of it all. As other businesses develop, they will pass through the same filters of transformation and community benefit.
The team coaches other bold entrepreneurial ventures as well, recently helping some friends launch a similar project in Spokane, Washington.
As for the Thrift Store, they need, take, and will pick up donations. And they welcome shoppers who will discover a clean, attractive, and friendly store with quality merchandise and excellent bargains.
Neighborhood Thrift is a community asset drawing out and developing the precious assets of the community.
OLIVE STORE: (this is where you will also find the Cafe)
353 E Olive Ave
Fresno, CA 93728
Monday – Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
4174 E Shields Ave
Fresno CA 93726
Monday – Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Eisley Concert At New Venue: Neighborhood Cafe
By Lorie Lewis Ham
A few weeks ago I was able to go with a couple of my teens to a new venue in Fresno, the Neighborhood Thrift Store & Café, to see Eisley in concert. It was a fun evening.
I really liked the venue with its cozy booths, a nice little area for people to stand and enjoy the concert, a snack and coffee bar, and a decent sized stage. The Café is in the corner of the thrift store and a fairly recent addition to the place. I was pleased to find that the sound quality was actually good as well, despite being located in the corner of a large building.
Overall it was a very enjoyable evening and a place I intend to check out again during the day just to hang out, and for more concerts. My only complaints were things that made it obvious how new they were— like they didn’t have enough ice for the drinks. It was also just a bit warm once all the people arrived—but I have great hopes for the Café and look forward to watching it grow and improve. More pluses include that there was plenty of parking and it was easy to find at 353 E Olive Ave in Fresno.
Speaking of growing and improving, while I enjoyed Eisley the last time I saw them perform several years ago, they have definitely continued to grow and improve and I was very impressed by what I heard. This is a folksy light rock family band with a very wholesome feel to them. It was the kind of concert you want your kids going to—great music played by great kids. Learn more about this band on their website.
Their opening act was a young girl named Christie Dupree, who is a sister to the Eisley’s. She was probably my favorite of the evening. Simple, beautiful, soulful songs sung with a guitar accompaniment by her brother Collin. You can learn more about Christie on her website.
The next band was called Marksmen—the kids enjoyed them and I liked them okay. Their style was a harder rock.
I’d have to admit I was definitely one of the oldest people there-with the ages ranging from tweens to probably mid thirties for the most part. But I hope that changes as more people discover The Café as this concert was definitely one that could appeal across the ages.
So next time Eisley and Christie Dupree are in town—don’t miss out. And be sure and check out the new kid on the block, The Neighborhood Thrift Store and Café. (see more about them in the above article)
You can find a review of Eisley’s latest EP here at KRL, and one for Christie’s will be coming soon.