After 80 years, the Economy Shop is still thriving

Among the gently-used items that line the hand-painted shelves of The Claremont Economy Shop, is a frame housing a relevant phrase:

“Some people touch our lives briefly, while others leave a lasting impression and are never forgotten.”

Loyal customers of the First Street thrift store agree the saying holds true for the beloved Claremont Economy Shop, which opened its doors this week for its 80th consecutive year.

The Economy Shop has certainly become familiar to locals in its decades near the busy intersection of Indian Hill and First. But it’s the workers—all volunteers—inside the store’s blue-and-white facade that bring spirit to the aforementioned axiom.

“They are here because they want to be here,” said Barbara Reilley, an avid thrift shopper who makes sure to stop by the Claremont store at least once a week. “It shows in how friendly they are. Everyone here is so nice.”

Volunteerism runs deep at the nonprofit shop, founded in 1933 by a group of church and Red Cross volunteers. In the days of early Claremont, grove workers came from all over in search of work among the city’s teeming citrus trees, equipped with bright prospects but lacking the proper clothing. The Economy Shop was opened by a group of local do-gooders with a desire to help provide workers with much-needed garb at reasonable prices.  

That spirit of giving hasn’t changed. With nearly 50 volunteers, the store is always abuzz with friendly chatter, all in the name of philanthropy. Nearly 100 percent of the store’s proceeds are donated to local charities, shared Pam Herrlinger, store volunteer and publicity manager. Last year, that meant $36,500 given to local nonprofits like Inland Valley Hope Partners, Inland Hospice, Crossroads, Project Sister, the Claremont After School Program and Uncommon Good.

“Our volunteers are the very reason this shop is successful,” said store manager Pam House.

The Economy Shop depends on the generosity of its volunteers and avid donors.  Before the store closes its doors for winter break and the summer months, all goods are swept out and sent off to Boys Republic, a nonprofit serving troubled youths. By the time doors open again, the store is outfitted in donated goods once more.

“It keeps things fresh,” Ms. Herrlinger said.

At any time, The Economy Shop is brimming with finds, ranging from home decor and children’s toys to tops and bottoms for all ages. No matter how stocked the shelves, however, the store keeps the shopping from becoming overwhelming. The homey size and neat upkeep of the shop are part of what drew in volunteer Linda Smith, an admitted social butterfly and thrift store shopaholic. Four years ago, Ms. Smith was early to her traditional Wednesday matinee at the Laemmle and decided to go for a walk. She didn’t get farther than The Economy Shop. The early bird ended up late for her matinee, but after 4 years at the Economy Shop, she hardly regrets the hang-up. 

The fuzzy feelings are shared by the store’s customers. Enthusiastic regulars lined up outside the shop prior to its opening on Wednesday, eager to check out new finds and welcome back staff. Among them was Daniel Fierro, who was pleased to find the store open on his way to work. When it comes to thrift shopping, The Economy Shop is his go-to spot. “I get all of my work clothes here,” Mr. Fierro said. “The prices are good.”

In the years since her retirement, Ms. Herrlinger has found the First Street nook to be her preferred destination as well, a home away from home as she calls it: “These people are like family.”

Ms. Herrlinger hopes others will feel the same. The Claremont Economy Shop, located at 325 W. First St., is once again open for business. Hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information or to volunteer, call 626-7334 or visit them on Facebook.

—Beth Hartnett


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