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Isolated Brownsville a boon to store
As catchy retail names go, Foothill Fire Thrift Store is a bit on the clunky side, if highly descriptive.
Which may be why over the years, locals in Brownsville, Challenge and other foothills towns have renamed the store the Brownsville Mall.
While she shopped with her two sons and husband, Amber Lage of Rackerby said its calling card is friendly staff and unpretentious attitude.
"When you go to big stores, it's all about the money," she said, stopping to chat with a longtime friend she had bumped into near the jackets. "In here, they make you feel very welcome."
The store also benefits from Brownsville's relative isolation, more than a 45-minute drive from Marysville or Grass Valley. Whatever the formula, the thrift store works: According to fire department auxiliary treasurer Phyllis Jacobson, it pulls in an average of about $1,000 a week.
Because it's staffed by all volunteers, has minimal expenses and is even in a building constructed with donated labor, all of its proceeds go right to the Foothill Fire Department, which serves Brownsville, Challenge and the surrounding areas.
In recent years, that's meant enough money to buy a new water tanker and several other pieces of equipment. And there's another $100,000 in the bank now, Jacobson said.
The store has the similar eclectic wares found in many thrift shops: weathered paperbacks by Sue Grafton and Louis L'Amour; clothes, shoes and handbags; and the miscellaneous items like beer coozies, throw pillows and seasonal Nativity scenes and figurines.
But there are standards, the store's volunteers said. Manager Ann Fahl makes sure every dish is clean, every article of clothing washed and stitched for tears or missing buttons, every bit of merchandise thoughtfully sorted and displayed.
Fahl, a supporter of the department down to weariing fire-enginer earrings, said what's not hard is getting people to patronize the store.
"The reason we have such big turnover in the thrift store is because of the support for the department," she said.
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.