June 5, 2006 – Don't be put off by the unassuming exterior of The Phoenix, a St. John thrift store run by the Safety Zone. Located in the Valley, a Cruz Bay neighborhood, the store is chock-a-block with some very good finds.
"Educated consumers love to shop at places like this," Safety Zone Director Iris Kern said.
She said to get over the idea that thrift store shopping takes items away from folks who just can't pay retail. The Phoenix has an abundant supply of gently used clothing, household goods and much, much more to meet the shopping needs of everyone who likes a bargain.
"People here are so generous. They donate a lot of stuff," volunteer Joyce Horn said.
The modest price folks pay for designer and other goods goes to fund the Safety Zone's operations. Look for brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Abercrombie and Fitch, L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, and Land's End among the many recognizable names.
"Where else can you get a Sloop Jones dress for $8," Kern said, speaking of the made-on-St.John hand-painted clothing.
She said that on the store's best day, sales reached $280. She said there's no consistency to the sales pattern, with some days only a few shoppers coming by, and on others, bargain hunters stopping by in droves.
She said that local stores donate last year's stock or items in colors no longer popular.
"Down here, I've never noticed what the colors are this year, last year or the year before that," Kern said, laughing.
Kern said that even the occasional tourist discovers The Phoenix.
Recent inventory included – in addition to clothing for the entire family – job-hunting clothes, prom dresses, lingerie, sheets and towels, a washer and dryer set, a computer and a slew of items that tourists might want.
Straw hats galore, caps, piles of good beach reads, bathing suits, and kids' toys all had tourist written on them. The store even had luggage for people who need an extra bag. Of course, residents also have need for those items.
Horn said that she and fellow volunteer Bill Needham often serve as "personal shoppers." She advised customers who can't find what they want to speak up because it might be packed away somewhere.
"If you're going to the states and need winter clothes or a suit, tell us," Horn said.
The Phoenix is woefully short on space, which means they can't display all the store has for sale. With only about 900 square feet in two rooms, Kern said the store needs at least 2,000 square feet.
Rent is the issue. The nonprofit Safety Zone can't afford to pay at the same rate as the island's stores, so Kern is looking hard for the right amount of space at the right price.
To find The Phoenix, take Route 104 (the one-way street that runs to the right of the Texaco station on the way out of Cruz Bay.) Turn left just before Santos Laundry. The Phoenix is on the right.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. As with all volunteer operations, there may be the occasional off day, so folks coming over from St. Thomas might want to call the Safety Zone office at 693-7233 before getting on the ferry or barge.
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