Shopping Without Your Wallet – The Martha’s Vineyard Times
The car park was filled last Saturday at the Dumptique, next to the West Tisbury transfer station. Customers were jostling inside ready to find buried treasure, a good book to read, or even a rolling pin or other kitchen gadget. You can buy just about anything at this free thrift store; in fact, as one Times employee recently admitted, it almost feels like shoplifting when you go out without paying.
“We have kitchen items, toys, a children’s area with clothes and shoes, a book area, a shoe department, a linen department, men’s and women’s clothes, a miscellaneous area, and we have a large table outside where we put the interesting stuff. Things that might catch their eye as they head for the entrance,” says Richard Ridel, Dumptique’s unofficial manager. “Take a look before you enter.”
The island’s gem, the Dumptique occupies a unique position among thrift shops – it’s all free, and you can also unload some of your own used or unused items during opening hours, but don’t expect a trash bag full of dirty laundry or a broken bag. trinket to find a home here. Even the Dumptique has its standards.
“We have to pay for our garbage, so if something is dirty, the volunteers will return it,” Ridel says.
There are misconceptions surrounding the place, he said in an interview with The Times. “The first assumption is that we are the dumping ground,” Ridel says. “We have to buy recycling stickers; we have to pay for our waste. The only affiliation we have with the dump is that we are fenced with the dump. If the dump was not open, we would not be open, like on public holidays. Our hours are when we are open for shopping, and half an hour before closing is when they stop taking donations.
Every staff member is an unpaid volunteer, including Ridel and his wife Barbara, who, with the added expertise of one of the former managers, Linda McGuire, keep track of inventory and scheduling. Before the pandemic, McGuire ran the Dumptique with Brigitte Cornand, a French artist here on a visa who had to return to France.
Ridel dug to find some history behind the 41-by-19-foot building. He found a request for funding from the Farm Neck Foundation of Jean Wexler, manager at the time, dated 2004, the year the Dumptique was rebuilt in its current state. Ridel cites the beginnings of the place around 1994. A newspaper article dated the same year as the funding request indicates that the recycling shed became famous as “Dot’s Boutique”, named after volunteer Dorothy West . The original purpose of the building was to serve as a shed to store newspapers for recycling.
There are about two dozen volunteers who run the Dumptique these days, four or five of them handling each two-hour shift. They have the chance to meet customers from all over the country and beyond who visit the island. They all agreed last weekend that it was great fun working with clients and each other.
“We brought in a kid wearing a Spiderman glove,” said volunteer Jill Blue; “He left with a matching cape.” Then there was the time she found a mink hat, and another day when a baby lamb strayed into the Dumptique. It’s a quirky place full of unique things. There’s a 20-foot-long chimney sweep broom available now, as well as straw hats and purses in all sizes and shapes. Another volunteer, Darleyne Baden Smith, said there were times when volunteers wondered what an article might be, because they didn’t know themselves. Everything from surfboards to sleds to furniture can be found, not to mention all the other random “things” you might be looking for – or not looking for.
There are times, however, when volunteers must refuse donations. Sometimes they already have too much or too much of an item, and other times ripped clothes or children’s items that could pose a safety hazard, such as a crib or car seat, must be refused. “A lot of them get called back, and we don’t want someone to take it home and their baby get hurt,” Ridel says. They also won’t accept items like life jackets or bicycle helmets for the same reason. So if a volunteer returns the item to you, Ridel says, don’t be offended; they just follow protocol. Plus, there are plenty of other things you can give the Dumptique.
“Sometimes customers are looking to furnish a party or gathering, or they come in for materials they can use to make costumes for a play or party,” Ridel says. “There’s so much stuff there that if you come with an open mind you can say, I can use it for that, but not necessarily what you were looking for. Some people come in for art and craft supplies. There are also lots of clothes, some of which still carry the price tag. There are all kinds of unexpected finds just waiting for the right person to reuse them.
“The biggest surprise comes when people find out it’s free,” Ridel says. “They come and get something and they say, ‘Maybe I should just take this,’ not thinking it’s all free. Take it all! We try not to restrict people with what they take. You want it ? Take it.”
The Dumptique, Old Stage Road, West Tisbury, is open Saturday and Tuesday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. Donations are welcome up until half an hour before closing.