Thrift Store with a Twist: Greater Huntsville Humane Society Store Relocating

For 51 years and counting, the Greater Huntsville Humane Society has continuously grown to meet the needs of the community’s animal population.

In her first year as CEO, Anne Caldwell is taking GHHS to the next level with a new business model and relocating the Thrift Store while expanding animal service capacity at the shelter.

The new thrift store opening is slated for late summer, early fall. The current store was supposed to reopen June 16. However that has been delayed due to COVID19 and staffing issues.

Before the big move even begins, Caldwell hopes to sell off as much inventory as possible in hopes of recouping some of the revenue missed during the COVID-19 shutdown, along with reducing the amount of merchandise left to be hauled crosstown.

At 10,000 square feet, the location on Pratt Avenue will be more than double the space of the current shop. In addition to selling gently used merchandise, Caldwell has plans for expanding retail sales and hosting community events.

“What we’re trying to do with the new store at the new location, is to create something unique,” said Caldwell. “It will be a hybrid of what people would expect out of a thrift store mixed in with a gift shop.

“I think we are missing out on a pretty big opportunity by not selling merchandise that’s branded specifically to the Humane Society; t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers

“Then, taking that idea one step further and carrying a few brand-new things, like pet clothes or toys. Things that people are going to think of around the holidays when they are searching for the perfect gift for the pet lover in their family.”

Caldwell’s plans include going well beyond the traditional thrift store business model. She hopes to host events, such as trunk shows and pop-up shops.

Additionally, she wants to feature local artists.

“I want to have different ways to really engage with our community and support local artists, local makers, and in turn support our pets,” said Caldwell. “It’s going to be very unique to the area, but I think it’s going to be very well-received.”

The store’s move is not just about facility expansion, it’s also about expanding capacity and providing services for animals that wouldn’t have anywhere else to go because of a contagious illness or disease.

“In addition to this cool, unique, innovative new spot that we’re creating for the store, we’re also leaving behind 4,000 square feet on site that we can now use for animal care,” said Caldwell. “That’s not only going to increase our physical capacity, but it’s also going to allow us to do a lot more than what we’re currently doing. Having that extra space in our backyard will allow us to have a proper isolation unit and a quarantine unit.”

Caldwell hopes the new thrift store will foster a welcoming experience yet remain true to the GHHS mission.

“We’ll make sure to have featured dogs and adoption events,” said Caldwell. “It’s going to be very clear that this store is not just a gift shop, it is an integral part of the Greater Huntsville Humane Society.”

With this new elevated breed of thrift store, Caldwell hopes to also enhance the perception of animal shelters and shelter pets.

“Shelters get a bad rep and I think sometimes, the public thinks of them as loud, chaotic, and dirty and all the dogs are just strays,” said Caldwell. “These preconceived notions are things that I tackle in every aspect of our operations.

“Huntsville is growing so fast, there are so many people here that are not originally from here. So even though the Humane Society has been around for over 50 years now, we are still encountering people who have never heard of us. That leads us to a really great opportunity to rebrand and capture a new demographic of people.”

For the Love of Pets, Greater Huntsville Humane Society Mission is Clear

The Greater Huntsville Humane Society dedicates itself to furthering the humane care and treatment of animals, by providing adoption services for unwanted and homeless animals.

The Greater Huntsville Humane Society relies on a small staff and dozens of volunteers. (Photo/ Steve Babin)

What many people don’t realize is the size of the Humane Society’s footprint in the Huntsville-Madison County community.

Now in its 51st year, the Humane Society continues to grow under the leadership of new CEO Anne Caldwell.

What the public also may not know: the Greater Huntsville Humane Society is funded entirely by donations and grants; the organization does not receive any government funding. With a small staff and more than 200 volunteers, the Humane Society is run on a shoestring budget.

The organization’s best-known fundraiser is the annual Dog Ball, now in its 31st year.

This year’s event will be Feb. 8 at the Von Braun Center South Hall. Over the years, the Dog Ball has continued to grow and each years’ clever theme with accompanying artwork seems to outdo previous years. This year’s theme will be “Bark Avenue.”

This year’s Dog Ball theme is “Bark Avenue.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

The money raised goes toward providing medical care and finding homes for shelter animals.

“The Dog Ball helps provide critical funding that enables GHHS to offer such programs and services as healthcare and food to low-income households, humane education and outreach, and a safe place for homeless pets to find their forever homes,” said Caldwell. “This fun-filled, elegant evening is consistently our largest fundraiser – even after all these years!”

The Humane Society’s Thrift Store has been recently updated to better serve its customers.

“The thrift store is our bread and butter,” said Caldwell. “Last year, it brought in over $200,000.”

The store sells a wide assortment of items; its mission is to sell donated goods and provide funds in support of the shelter animals. In fact, 100 percent of every sale goes to support the Humane Society’s mission.

In addition to caring for the needs of the shelter animals, there are several programs designed to help the local community and their pets.

The Greater Huntsville Humane Society was named the Nonprofit of the Year for 2019. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The King’s Community Kitchen provides low-income pet owners with food for their dogs and cats. In 2018, over 35,000 pounds of pet food was distributed to area families in need.

In partnership with the Humane Society, Rocket City Mobile Vet offers Pet Wellness Clinics on the second Saturday of each month. These discounted services are provided to pet owners with a household income below $35,000. Clinics offer wellness exams, annual vaccinations, heartworm and flea/tick preventative and microchipping, if needed.

Its newest community program is Huntsville Hounds on Transport (HHOT Dogz). Last spring, the Humane Society began monthly treks to the Humane Society of Washington County, Md., and to the Humane Rescue Alliance in Washington, D.C.

Due to shelter overpopulation here in the South, many independent agencies have been transporting shelter animals to the Northeast, where spaying and neutering of pets is more stringently enforced, resulting in fewer adoptable animals in the northern shelters. The HHOT Dogz program helps GHHS save the lives of more shelter animals by giving them a better opportunity for a loving home elsewhere.

The Paws for Reading program was designed to enrich the lives of shelter animals while also helping children develop sound reading skills.

Children ages 6- 15 years old can participate if accompanied by a parent; it’s also open to volunteers over 16. Paws for Reading is a win-win for the children and shelter animals alike. It helps the animals develop socialization skills, which will help them become more comfortable with people. Those people skills are critical for a shelter animal to be adoptable.

The Humane Society is also a partner of Pets for Patriots, a national service that pairs veterans and adoptable animals. The goal is to make the benefits of shelter pet adoption a reality for military personnel, ensuring many years of friendship, companionship and joy with their honorably adopted dog or cat.

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