25 Jul 2017

Nantucket Thrifty

The elegant Helen Mirren once said, “The whole thing of clothes is insane. You can spend a dollar on a jacket in a thrift store. And you can spend a thousand dollars on a jacket in a shop. And if you saw those two jackets walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t know which was which.” With summer well underway on Nantucket, lines are forming at all the local “hot spots.” The Juice Bar for ice cream, Downy Flake for donuts and even a line to get into the Chicken Box on Saturday night. But who would guess dozens of enthusiastic shoppers would stand in line for the opportunity to purchase someone else’s belongings? Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s Thrift Shop on India Street is one of the hottest tickets in town.
The Hospital Thrift Shop is legendary not only for the quality and quantity of its “gently used” items, but perhaps more so for the respect and care given the display and offering of the goods. The shop volunteers recognize that the items they offer were once worn, used and loved by someone else or in some cases an entire family. Patrons of the store choose to shop there not just for a “bargain” (although there are great ones!), but more often because they love the idea of being part of someone else’s story. Arriving at a dinner party or island gala sporting a Thrift Shop handbag is not considered an embarrassment but quite the opposite – it’s a badge of honor. The actress Drew Barrymore has been quoted saying her daughters most treasured books come from the Hospital Thrift Shop and she loves knowing they were once loved by other Nantucket girls before them.
Because our island community has been around for centuries, it’s not just handbags and children’s books that get passed on to future generations. Unless the home you rent, own or visit was built from the ground up, chances are you’re living inside walls that hold stories that span decades or more. Other families before you shared meals, welcomed babies, played lawn games, suffered illness or tragedy and very likely loved Nantucket and the home it afforded them.
Our “Faraway Island” is so unique in her ability to offer people not only breathtaking natural beauty, but a true piece of historical significance. It’s one of those rare places that makes you not only want to return, but to embrace the traditions and preservation that make the island magical. Regardless if you’re a long-time resident or only visiting for a day trip – the moment you step off the boat or the plane you become part of the Nantucket story. In the same way there’s honor in sporting the “gently used” handbag, there is distinction in knowing you’re part of something the town forefathers took great pride in creating and preserving.
The next time you’re out and about on Nantucket, stop by the Nantucket Historical Association and peruse their expansive collection of island photos, facts and data. Visit the Whaling Museum and gift shop on Broad Street to learn about the captains, the whaling industry and purchase a keepsake. Or spend an hour or two at the Hospital Thrift Shop where you’re almost certain to discover a few hidden gems that will become the next chapter in somebody else’s story.
Be Thrifty!
Shellie Dunlap
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