Judy Dooley stands in the Severna Park Discovery Shop and sniffs. Her nose is checking for that odor, that unpleasant, musty smell often associated with thrift shops.
Nothing. She inhales the scent of clean carpeting and clean clothing and smiles, satisfied.
"When people think of used, they think dingy, dark, that smell," says Dooley. "We're trying to get people to understand that we're really not like that."
The Discovery Shop, at 346 Ritchie Highway, accepts donations of excellent quality items only, Dooley emphasizes. All profits go to the American Cancer Society, which runs more than 100 such resale shops across the country.
Money from the shop -- which last year raised $20,000 -- benefits the society's programs of research, education and patient services. Next week, the shop is having a special 50 percent-off sale on all clothing that has been on the racks more than two months.
Dooley, the only paid worker, manages 60volunteers who work at the shop as sales clerks, who also sort and steam items that come in. Volunteers also take washable items home andwash them.
The volunteers deserve much of the credit for the thrift shop's bright, clean appearance, Dooley says.
Bright wallpaper trim outlines two rooms, one for women's clothing, jewelry and housewares, the other for bathing suits and men's clothing. Small tables are covered in lace; an enormous grapevine-and-dried-flower wreath adorns one wall.
Three good-sized dressing rooms contain white wicker stools, closed off by flowered peach curtains. A wall of windows facing Ritchie Highway lets in the light.
"We're trying to get people who don't normally shop in thrift stores," Dooley says. "We want themto know we have something different."
Certainly, the atmosphere is pleasant enough. And there are some good bargains among the standard thrift-shop house dresses and polyester suits. A man's G. Briggs tie can be had for $2; women's blazers bear labels such as Oscar de la Renta and Russ. Elegant crepe and chiffon women's formal wear dresses, still bearing original price tags and clearly unworn, are on sale for $80. A small selection of paperbacks and hardback books is available.
Dooley would like to add more jewelry and accessories, as wellas children's clothing, to the shop's inventory.
She encourages local businesses to contribute items they haven't sold, using the slogan: "Help control cancer without writing a check!" Donations of overstocked merchandise, samples and floor models are tax deductible, she points out.
But the biggest lure for both donors and shoppers is the charitable aspect of The Discovery Shop, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Each year, nearly 500,000 people die from cancer. The American Cancer Society contributes more than $85 million annually to cancer research and also conducts serviceand rehabilitation programs for cancer patients and their families.
The Severna Park Discovery Shop opened three years ago, and the money raised at the shop goes to support the American Cancer Society inAnne Arundel.