Bargain-hunters cheer local store

Joel Aybar

Raquel Sanchez and Celestino Almonte at their store on Hunts Point Avenue.

Thrift shop’s stock ranges from sweaters to refrigerators

On Hunts Point Avenue a thrift shop named “Hunts Point Second Hand Merchandise” provides hundreds of items at a steep discount from the retail price, because they are used or abandoned.

A coat that cost $300 in a retail store might cost as little as $15 and a sweater that was originally $45 sells for $5.

In a neighborhood where half the households survive on incomes under $22,000, according to the Census, many residents hail the shop as a community service.

“I basically get everything for free,” said Raquel Sanchez in Spanish as she shopped on a recent afternoon.

At first glance, the store resembles a garage crammed with odds and ends. The front room is filled with racks and piles of clothing, small appliances, tools and decorative objects. Another room displays washing machines, refrigerators, couches, beds and other large items.

“We sell everything you can think of: TVs, radios, beds, pots, cups, rings, watches, boots, purses. Everything,” said owner Celestino Almonte in Spanish. “With this kind of business both the customer and I win.”

“I also love the music here,” said Sanchez as the radio played Bachata. “Celestino has good taste.”

Almonte quickly jumped in to say “Even that radio is for sale. Everything you see here is for sale, maybe with the exception of me.” He laughed. “Sometimes I’ll be watching something on a TV and somebody will buy it.”

Hunts Point resident Juan Quezada, said he loves the family atmosphere he finds at the store.

“I always buy here. Part of the reason is because things are cheap here and I love these people. I love what they do for the community,” said Quezada.

Many other customers call the store a blessing.

“This place makes a big difference in the neighborhood by selling computers and all kinds of footwear for the kids,” said Humberto Lopez, who has been a faithful customer in the two and a half years the store has been open. “Not everybody can afford new things.”

Despite the store’s name, not everything for sale is used.

“All the stuff here I get is from a storage bin. When people abandon their storage rooms I go bid for them,” said Almonte. “Most of the stuff is used but sometimes we find new things in there, but even if it is new I sell it for cheap to help the community.”

A sign in the front of the store in English and Spanish lets people know that Almonte doesn’t accept donated goods. The difference between “Hunts Point Second Hand Merchandise” and a place like the Salvation Army or Goodwill (which rely on donations) is that the Salvation Army and Goodwill are non-profit organizations, while Almonte is in business to earn a profit.

Prices at a Salvation Army store were about the same as at the Hunts Point thrift shop, but the selection at the Salvation Army store in Jamaica, Queens was poorer, and the Salvation Army store carried few unused products.

“When I opened up this business it was for two reasons, to make money, and help the community,” said Almonte. “I feel that if I accept donations I am just making money and not helping the community.”

“I love my community. I wouldn’t leave it for nothing,” said Almonte. “Nothing makes me happier than seeing people getting gifts for their kids and they thank me for my business. That is what keeps me happy and motivated.”

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