Hospitals and thrift stores have had a long marriage. Nearly every city, large and small, has an auxiliary group of volunteers – usually run by women — who operate thrift stores to raise money for medical costs for the needy and to support hospital operations. There are literally thousands of hospital thrift stores across America, with low overhead and blessed volunteer labor, allowing you to do good for your neighbors through shopping.
One of our nation’s premier hospitals, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, is no exception. The hospital was founded in 1889 and operates the oldest hospital affiliated resale store in the country, The Carry On Shop.
The shop is run by The Women’s Board of the hospital, and benefits patient care through grants to such programs as its Diabetes Center, School of Nursing Interactive Library, and Comprehensive Cancer Center. It also funds two medical school scholarships each year.
The shop carries everything from donated clothes to oriental rugs, couches and housewares. There are surprises galore. This month, its Facebook page listed author signed books from the personal collection of the late heart surgeon and civil rights activist Dr. Levi Watkins. The trove included many first editions, including books signed by Rosa Parks and Dick Gregory. Earlier in the summer, the shop was selling a 1910-era photograph of noted Johns Hopkins surgeon William Halsted, an early champion of anesthesia in the late 1880s, with his bird dogs. Not your ordinary thrift store finds!
Clothing, shoes and purses frequently are listed at half off. Jewelry often is 20 percent off. Although prices are high for the designer clothing ($150 and up, some with tags on), there are bargains to be found in all other categories.
We scored a lovely 1940-ish green blouse with black trim for a friend for $7.50, a charming animal print skirt for an older friend, also $7.50, and some Art Deco copper clip earrings (highly collectible) for $14.40. We saw a new copper stockpot ($40 instead of the ticketed $259) and a new clear OXO salad spinner for $4 (tag price $25).
The store makes trips to donors’ houses to pick up goods, a true service for the charitably minded.
Those living near Baltimore should be alert to its annual Best Dressed Sales, held in the fall and spring, featuring an abundance of donated new and used clothing, jewelry and accessories. The upcoming sale is Nov. 2-4 and includes a preview party Nov. 1. The popular event is ticketed and includes lunch. It is held off-site at various venues, so check the shop’s Facebook page for details. Unsold items from the Best Dressed Sales come to The Carry On Shop.
The store also holds bag sales in fall and spring, where customers are supplied large brown bags to fill to the brim for $20. Longtime store employee Kelly McCloud advises shoppers to fold and roll clothing to maximize bag space. “You can fit an awful lot in there by rolling,” she said.
Pro tip: Parking in front of the store on Monument Street usually isn’t possible. The shop is on the ground floor of a busy hospital on a major street. There’s a $5 pay lot a short distance away at N. Wolfe and Orleans Streets. Park at the north end and there’s a pedestrian gate that puts you just a two-block walk to the shop. It’s worth it.
The Carry On Shop, 1830 East Monument St., Baltimore, MD 21287. 410-955-8719
Open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; also the second Saturday of each month (except August) from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.