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Merging Thrift With Style, Alphabet Soup Doing Brisk Business

The Western Avenue shop has been turning heads with its interesting and ever-changing window displays and great deals of clothes, jewelry, shoes and housewares

As a senior vice president of store design for Macy’s, Ron Bausman spent his career thinking about how to create a stellar shopping experience.

Everything mattered—the way the mannequins looked, the amount of light in a room, the way merchandise was displayed. Now Bausman, 66, and a former New Yorker, is bringing these sensibilities to as the thrift store’s new manager.

“People like to be in an environment that feels good,” says Bausman who in his previous job was responsible for the “in house experience” of about 500 Macy’s stores nationwide. “Does the product change on a regular basis? Is there a clarity in the items you’re offering?...For example, here we get fabulous light and we wanted to take advantage of it.”

Alphabet Soup Thrift Store opened in 1994 and is run by a team of six employees and 40 volunteers. All proceeds from sales go to the Petaluma Educational Foundation, an organization which has given out more than $4 million in grants to local schools since being founded 30 years ago.

The store, located at 217 Western Ave., sells everything from clothes to house wares, toys, books and electronics. It also has rotating window displays, a section dedicated to designer brands and great finds on ceramics, art and furniture that have attracted antique dealers and even stylists from major magazines.

“People don’t feel like they are buying thrift here, they feel like they’re in a lovely boutique,” says volunteer Marilyn Lapidus, who on a recent day was sorting and pricing a white Mikasa Bone China dinner set.

Not surprisingly, the store is doing brisk business and last year generated $40,000 for the education foundation. And it's only getting better, with this February and March grossing record-breaking sales, according to Bausman. 

“The times being what they are, the potential for thrift stores is huge,” he says.

Alphabet Soup is open Monday through Saturday 10am-5:30pm and Sunday 11am-4pm. Drop off daily 9:30am-5:30pm

Do you know a great local business or organization that deserves mention on Petaluma Patch? Send Editor Karina Ioffee a note at karina@patch.com

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