Small Business Spotlight: Washington Square Thrift Store, Greenville

Not your average thrift store

by Laura Smith

Published: June 26,2011

Tags: ANN MACVAUGH, Greenville, Small Business Spotlight, WASHINGTON SQUARE THRIFT STORE

Fine china, home appliances, clothing, books and games are among the items meticulously displayed at the Washington Square Thrift Store in downtown Greenville.

“The community has been really good to us,” said Ann Macvaugh, founder and executive director of Washington Square. “We get items from estates – fine china, televisions. This is upscale resale. It’s not your average thrift store.”

Washington Square Thrift Store sales benefit Washington Square, a facility that provides educational and work support to those with mental illnesses.

“Our members wash and iron the items, tag and price them, so they’re clean and ready for purchase. You can really walk out wearing any of our things,” Macvaugh said.

In six years, the thrift store has outgrown its current space at 345 Washington Avenue, and Macvaugh is writing grants seeking funds to purchase the former Fine Vines jeans manufacturing facility further east on Washington. Funds are also needed for more vans, and a truck is needed for pick-up of bulk thrift store donations. Funding is also needed for Washington Square for computers and dry erase boards.

Washington Square opened in 2004 at 833 Washington Avenue in a 10,000-square-foot facility, and the thrift store opened the following year.

“I knew I wanted it to be downtown to help contribute to the revitalization of downtown Greenville,” she said.

Macvaugh and her late husband, Gil Macvaugh, have been Greenville’s stalwarts for mental health services since moving to the Delta city 40 years ago. Gil Macvaugh was director of the Delta Community Mental Health Services until his death in April 2009. Anne Macvaugh has a master’s degree in social work and founded what would become Washington Square in 1991 after the state moved to the clubhouse model of psycho-social rehabilitation, which provides education and work opportunities to help those with mental illnesses become contributing members of the society.

Washington Square is a city within a city: it provides members with financial services, a cafeteria and short-order snack bar and work and education support.

“We’re like an extended family,” Macvaugh said, noting that members have hosted baby showers and even a wedding reception for other members.

Of the center that has become like Macvaugh’s “baby,” she said, “It’s my heart. It really is. When Gil died, they embraced me.

“Our members got me through a very difficult time, and we are carrying on with our mission as Gil would have wanted us to.”

Washington Square is internationally certified through the International Center for Clubhouse Development.

Members and staff run the program together, and members work toward transitional, part-time and full-time jobs in janitorial, foodservice or clerical positions at businesses throughout the community.

Of the 60 to 70 members from Washington, Sharkey, Issaquena and Bolivar counties, about 40 are working in transitional, supported and independent jobs.

“People have been really wonderful to us,” Macvaugh said, noting that Saint Joseph High School, the City of Greenville and television stations are among businesses that have employed Washington Square members.

All photos by Bill Johnson

Up Close With … Ann Macvaugh

Age: 67

Hometown: Greenville

High school: Graduated in 1961 from Warwick High School, Newport News, Va.

College: Bachelor’s degree in 1961 from the College of William and Mary; master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee

Key to success: “My husband, the late Dr. Gil Macvaugh Jr. He was my inspiration and my partner not only in raising our children, but we were a mental health team. I’d have to credit him with my success. He was always there to support, listen and guide me.”

Coolest thing you’ve ever done: “Becoming a grandmother to my five grandsons. They’re really my heart.”

More info: Washington Square, 833 Washington Avenue, is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; the thrift store, 345 Washington Avenue, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Contact: (662) 334-3449

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