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Not Your Average Thrift Store
By Lucy Sherman
Bikes, Books, and Beyond, located at 7 W. Broad St. in downtown Richmond, Virginia, is a nonprofit thrift store owned and run by Shelley Briggs. The store was started to serve as a financial back for the nonprofit Books on Wheels, a bus that has provided free books and bicycle repair since 2007. “Both bikes and books are liberating tools that help to empower people” states their pamphlet, which Briggs gave to me when I visited the store to ask her a few questions about her operation. Briggs started the nonprofit a year after she finished grad school when she was 26 with Ward Tefft of Chop Suey Books. She started the thrift store to generate money that could provide the bus with funds for gas and other operational expenses, as well as serve as a grounded office and home base for the mobile organization.
The store consists of two rooms; the back full of women’s apparel, and the front housing men’s clothes, accessories, books, bikes, and other random gems you can only find in a thrift store. All books are free, a virtue carried over from Books on Wheels. Perhaps it is the vaulted ceiling or the fact that the door was open when I visited, but there isn’t that musty smell of books or secondhand clothing that is usually associated with thrift stores. The clean scent, light colors, retro decorations, and music from another decade make this store unique and inviting, a good atmosphere for hanging out and searching for treasures that belong in your home or closet.
Being a store in which inventory is all donated, there are always a few stories of strange items that they’ve received. Briggs told mentioned a woman who donated bachelorette party items, such as nude playing cards and “more explicit things” as she politely put it. Food is also something that shows up in their donations a lot. Not just canned goods but also food that has been worked on a little, like half a box of crackers. People also tend to accidentally donate things like keys and in one case, a passport.
The store is also used as an art space, especially for First Fridays. There haven’t been many this past year but art shows will be returning this summer, starting with July’s First Friday art walk, so be on the lookout for exhibits and events this summer. The exhibit will remain in there until August, and the store will remain open during that time as well. You can find more information about this at their tumblr. They are also on Facebook, and you can follow Books on Wheels news and events at their website.