La Verne Magazine
Shopping for a Cause
by Chrissy Zehrbach
photography by Jason Cooper
Shelves of bargain items bring customers back to the David and Margaret Home
Bargain Boutique. Even employee Bernadette Palos admits, I do all my shopping
here. Palos, a 2 1/2 year store employee, takes great pride in her work
and the products offered.
Bag of pretzels, 15 cents. Tub of frosting, 50 cents. Jar of pasta sauce,
99 cents. Bar of soap, 50 cents. Can of soup, 59 cents. And that is just the
beginning. One will not find these prices anywhere else, nor will one find a
more worthy cause than the David and Margaret Home Bargain Boutique.
This store is owned and operated by the David and Margaret Home. Founded by
the United Methodist Womens group in 1910 as an orphanage, the David and
Margaret Home is a residential treatment agency that provides services for troubled
teenage girls between the ages 12 and 18.
The Bargain Boutique opened in 1987 in the Whitney Building, a former hotel
owned by La Verne resident Henry L. Kuns and now one of the oldest buildings
on the campus, to provide additional funding for the organization. It offers
discount prices on donated items. This is not a thrift shop; all items are new,
with the occasional exception of furniture. Donors vary between large and small
companies and franchises, to national and international corporations. Its
called the best kept secret in La Verne. Thats what I was told, and I
hear that all the time, says Lenette Kruells, store manager.
Since its founding as a church mission agency, the David and Margaret Home
has historically received donations based on its needs. Some of the donations
go directly to the kitchen, school and cottages to service the needs of the
residents. Every time we need a product, and it has been donated to us,
we are able to save dollars in terms of not going out and purchasing the product
by simply transferring the inventory into the homes and cottages, says
Gene Graham, director of development.
Donations are made to the Home due to a variety of circumstances. Sometimes
a company will overstock an item, or the product will not meet the intended
specifications. Other products may be damaged or are close to their expiration
dates. These items are then donated to charitable organizations. The idea for
the store arose when there were more product contributions arriving than the
resident girls could use. There are two full-time staff members, called project
developers, who work in the resource department and contact various companies
to find those interested in making a contribution. The David and Margaret Home
is a registered non-profit organization under the federal tax code, which allows
donors to write off their contributions against their corporate taxes.
The Bargain Boutique offers everything from food to clothes to general
merchandise, sundries, jewelry, cosmeticsa variety of things all depending
on what we get, Graham says. And the really fun part about the Bargain
Boutique is that its good to come on a regular basis because the product
keeps turning over. Half the store is food products. There is always a
wide variety of baked goods and beverages as well as canned, packaged and frozen
foods. We could have our stock change dramatically; theres really
no consistency, which is kind of fun, Kruells says.
The Bargain Boutique not only deals with retail, but wholesale as well. Wholesale
products do not often make it to the David and Margaret Home site to cut down
on the hassle of shipping. When a donation is too large or unnecessary for the
store, the project developers work with wholesalers and truckers to get that
product to another buyer.
All profits directly fund residential programs run on the David and Margaret
Home campus. Programs such as The Joan Macy School, The Learning Enhancement
Center, The Parent/Teen Project®, anger management, and drug and alcohol
intervention programs, as well as other residential treatment programs are only
partially funded by county payments, grants and contracts. Additional funding
provided by revenue from the store helps keep these programs in operation.
It makes a difference in our budget of about $1.2 million in terms of
gross value every year. Its an important way for us to underwrite and
subsidize what we believe are important programs, Graham says. Last
year, nearly $600,000 of net revenue from the store went to help underwrite
the programs to help the girls in our residential treatment program, foster
children and families in our community with therapeutic and educational programs
As a part of the vocational skills program at the David and Margaret Home,
the residents are given the opportunity to apply for a job. Among other places
on campus, the girls have the opportunity to work in the store as a clerk or
stocking shelves. This gives them a chance to learn about responsibility and
build patterns of adulthood by working everyday and managing their money. I
give them projects, and we dont hover over them. Theyre young adults.
I give them responsibilities, and then I expect them to take care of those responsibilities,
and they do a really good job, Kruells says. I give them opportunities,
thankfulness and gratitude, and they realize that theyre important.
Kruells, who has been working at the store since December 1992, enjoys her
job because of the relationships she forms with the girls. Something definitely
keeps me here. And for being here this many years, its obviously just
not for everyday retail working. Its different from that. It brings you
a lot more, Kruells says. I thought that I would only be here for
a couple years, but obviously it was too rewarding to let it go. Ive been
lucky to be able to be a part of their lives. The respect is mutual with
the girls. Kruells says she receives countless letters, cards, e-mails and messages
from former residents thanking her for the opportunities she gives them. Often
times the girls come back to visit and share with her what they have achieved
since they left the David and Margaret Home. Were taught here to
be role models, so the girls will come back after working with me years ago,
and theyll introduce me to their husband or their children, or theyve
just received their masters degree or moved into being career-minded women.
That is something that you cant replace, and you cant buy that.
Knowing that you touched their lives in a way is something that Ill never
forget, Kruells adds.
The David and Margaret Home has never used any outside advertising for the
Bargain Boutique. The organization believes word of mouth is the best form of
advertising, given its non-profit status. I think you will see us advertise
more as were comfortable that it doesnt create competition for businesses
in the community who do not have the advantage of our non-profit status and
of our donated products, Graham adds. People certainly tell their
friends when they know there are good deals at the Bargain Boutique. We think
what brings them back is that theres really a turnover of product. We
encourage people to come back on a regular basis when new clothes come out,
or new product on the food side, Graham says.
Despite the lack of advertising, the Bargain Boutique is immensely successful.
Customers patronize the store on a regular basis. Even on a weekday, in the
middle of the afternoon, the store is flooded with customers. Waiting at the
register is a long line of customerswhose carts are overflowing with the
bargains of the day, while countless other customers browse through the products.
The weekends are even busier. You walk in on a Saturday, and you would
think that the other stores in the community were closed, Kruells says
about how busy the store can be. Besides, why would someone not want to shop
at a store that offers products at prices cheaper than all major supermarkets
and the ever popular 99 cent stores? People are so excited and so interested
in what we do here and are very anxious to find out what we have in the store.
That just kind of blossomed into repeat customers, Kruells says. I
guarantee you I know quite a few of the customers by name. People like to have
that extra interest and friendship. They want to be acknowledged; people dont
like to be ignored.
Take Covina resident Barbara Miller, who heard about the store from members
of her church and has been shopping here for just over a year. Their stock
is always rotating, and if you like what they have, youll find really
good prices, Miller says. Plus, the profits go toward programs to
help the girls who live there; its a good community outreach program.
Regardless of its popularity, the David and Margaret Home believes the Bargain
Boutique would be even more successful if the customers did not have to climb
the several small flights of stairs to get to the store. They didnt
anticipate the store becoming so popular, so we dont have any access down
ramps or anything to get the carts down the staircase. We usually will help
the customers, Kruells says.
The David and Margaret Home is currently in the planning process of building
a new store facility on campus that will be more accessible. While planning
to expand the store in the future, Kruells says she appreciates its current
success. Its pretty interesting. Its a different kind of business,
but its very rewarding.
The David and Margaret home is located at 1350 Third St. The Bargain Boutique
is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is closed Sunday