Talking Shop with Elizabeth Hileman, director of the Safe House for Women Thrift Shop

Monday, October 11, 2010
Elizabeth Hileman is the manager of Safe House for Women Thrift Shop in Cape Girardeau. (Kristin Eberts)

Elizabeth Hileman, director of the Safe House for Women Thrift Shop, runs a business where all the profits go to support a cause close to her heart. Because of the thrift shop's success under Hileman's direction, the Safe House has been able to expand its programs and help more women struggling as a result of domestic violence.

Question: How did the Safe House thrift shop business get started?

Answer: We opened our thrift shop in November of 2006. I helped with the startup and have been the thrift shop director for the past four years we have been in business. I have a bachelor's degree in business from Southeast Missouri State University with a double major in fashion merchandising and marketing. I was looking for a job that would use my education and allow me to help my community. Managing the thrift shop allows me to do both.

Q: How has the Safe House for Women thrift shop grown and changed throughout the years?

A: After being open for one year, we knew we needed more space. We had a small renovation to the inside of the building in 2009, which gave us more selling and sorting space. We are meeting a need for low-priced used clothing for our community. Many of our shoppers buy for family and friends and at our prices they feel they can help others also. We could still use more floor space. We highlight our promotions each month and offer a discount coupon on our website,

Q: How are the proceeds from the thrift shop used?

A: The proceeds go directly for services and programs for victims of violence offered through the Safe House shelter and outreach center. The thrift shop has made it possible for the agency to expand its counseling, court advocacy and education programs to both shelter residents and people in need of those services who are not in the shelter.

Q: Describe a typical day for you at work.

A: It is many smiles and laughs with shoppers and donors mixed with heavy lifting, shorting and adding new merchandise to our selling floor daily. Our days at the thrift shop are full from start to finish. We are open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We accept donations and volunteers any time we are open.

Q: In what ways is operating the Safe House thrift shop just like running any other retail clothing business? In what ways is it different?

A: It is similar to a retail shop. We try to offer what our customers are shopping for along with staying neat, clean and organized. I worked over six years in a clothing retail environment so we try to emulate a regular retail shop. The difference is we have all "one of a kinds." That makes it challenging to keep it organized and easy for our shoppers to find what they are looking for.

Q: What do you enjoy most about what you do?

A: I enjoy talking with our shoppers. I enjoy working with the wide variety of volunteers who help us each day. We would not be able to have a thrift shop without our volunteers. We also would not have a thrift shop without our community support through donations and financial contributions. Our shoppers and volunteers al have interesting lives filled with stories. It's rewarding knowing each day I am helping someone in our community.

Q: What's the most challenging part of your job?

A: It has to be our floor space constraints. We have so many wonderful donations, but only so much room in our shop. We try very hard to keep our floor full of as much merchandise as we can and still be neat and organized.

Q: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What special activities do you have going on at the thrift shop in connection with this?

A: In our thrift shop we have an annual hat, coat and boot sale. It will be outside on our sidewalk starting Oct. 18. It is a great way to pass on warm coats and hats to our community and support the services at the Safe House. It is a win-win situation. A Vintage Now fashion show fundraising event at will benefit the Safe House for Women on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m. at Buckner Brewing Co. October also gives us a chance to showcase candles made by residents at the shelter. it's a great way to involve those we serve with our fundraising efforts.

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