February 9, 2022

Something For Every Taste and Pocketbook Is Available at HomeFront’s Treasure Trove

SUCCESS STORY: “We have become a community hub. People love to come in and see what’s new. We rearrange everything each week, and new items are always coming in. We are so grateful to those who donate and to the shoppers, who have continued to keep us going and support HomeFront in this way.” Shown are volunteers at HomeFront’s Treasure Trove shop in Hopewell. From left are Sue Karr, Martha Blandford, Ruthann Traylor, Annie Battle, Lillian Rankel, Vivienne Wingard, and Helen James (foreground).

By Jean Stratton

HomeFront’s Treasure Trove — Buy something you love, support a cause you believe in.”

This sentiment is proving irresistible to the many shoppers who have discovered the special items and warm atmosphere at HomeFront’s Treasure Trove, the shop at 31 West Broad Street in Hopewell. Filled with an eclectic array of art, furniture, pottery, glassware, and much more, it benefits the HomeFront programming fund.

Not only is it a true success story, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving on so many levels — to the community, to donors who know that their donation will find a new home, and ultimately benefit HomeFront.

“Since we opened a little over a year ago, we have raised $175,000 for HomeFront, a testament to the goodwill and generosity of so many people,” says Annie Battle, HomeFront volunteer and curator and organizer of the shop.

Kindness and Generosity

Originally opened in December of 2020 as a pop-up shop, it attracted customers from its earliest days. Located in the double storefront of the Baxter Construction building, it was launched through the kindness and generosity of owner Jim Baxter. COVID-19 was creating havoc for so many at that time, and he wanted to help in whatever way he could. The opportunity to benefit HomeFront seemed an ideal use of his space.

Since its founding in 1991, HomeFront has worked to end family homelessness in central New Jersey by breaking the cycle of poverty. It   has developed a sophisticated network of supportive housing and social services for very low income households who are either homeless or at risk of becoming so. Recognized as a four-star charity by Charity Navigator, HomeFront ensures that 90 percent of every dollar raised is dedicated to programs that directly help clients.

“The work of HomeFront is multi-dimensional. We do much more than provide shelter,” explains founder and director Connie Mercer. “Our programs and activities are designed to help families who are experiencing homelessness gain skills for self-empowerment and develop a vision of a better future for them and their children.”

Once the Hopewell  shop opened its doors in 2020, it found an enthusiastic clientele. It became a showcase for art and also a resource for the public to discover a variety of items at very reasonable prices.

One of the reasons the shop has been able to establish permanent status is due not only to Jim Baxter, but also to the contribution of benefactors who will pay the monthly rental charge.

Scheduled Sponsors

“The generosity of our sponsors is wonderful and so helpful to us,” points out Battle. “Queenston Realty (Ingela Kostenbader, Josh Wilton, Marcy Kahn) will sponsor our opening month in March.”

Other scheduled sponsors include the Chris DiMedio family; Ingrid Reed; Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty; and Craig and Annie Battle.

“Of course, we want to give a big thank you to Jim Baxter,” says Battle. “He enabled us to do this in the beginning, and we are fortunate to have the same space. He has really been phenomenal, and now he is also lending us his truck once a month so we can pick up larger donated pieces.”

Once they enter the attractive store, customers will find an inviting setting, filled with a variety of vintage and new items, including furniture, antiques, collectibles, sterling silver, small decorative pieces, and more. Items are conveniently and appealingly displayed, and nicely spaced without any sense of crowding.

“Contemporary furniture is very popular now,” points out Battle. “Young couples are interested in mid-century and modern furniture, and art is a big favorite. We have a great display of all kinds of art from area artists. Original art is especially desirable”

Tables and chairs, small sofas and love seats, cabinets, chests, china, including full table settings, vases, teapots, charming collectible cookie jars, bowls, and serving pieces are all in demand, and all available.

Golden Nugget

“And our prices are so reasonable,” says Battle. “On any day, you may find Simon Pearce glassware, Herend china, Waterford crystal, and Tiffany cut glass all at amazingly affordable prices.”

Adds volunteer Vivienne Wingard, “You may indeed find a golden nugget!”

“We recently received a wonderful Italian dining table and four chairs, donated by Greg and Sue Evans of Tuscany Hills, the furniture store formerly located in Kingston,” reports Battle. “This is a real highlight, a handsome sturdy table with striking style.”

New items arrive all the time, including a sled that was donated last week — ready and waiting for the next snowstorm!

“We emphasize sustainability with our recycled products,” explains Battle, “and they all have a story. Also, antiques and collectibles dealers often come in looking for special items.”

Continuing to receive donations is crucial, she adds, and she says, “We want to hear from people who are moving, having estate sales, and could be interested in donating. They can contact us, send us a photo of the item, make an appointment to bring it in, and we also have drop off days on Wednesday and Saturday when customers can bring something in without an appointment.”

Shoppers and Donors

Battle is very pleased that many of the shoppers and donors become involved as HomeFront volunteers. “A lot of the people did not even know about HomeFront before coming here, and it is wonderful that they have become part of our team,” she says.

Adds volunteer and board member Martha Blandford, who began to volunteer after shopping and donating, “It’s how it feels here. It really is a treasure trove. Not just the wonderful selection of items, but it’s an emotional and spiritual treasure. We meet people from all over and from all walks of life.”

Volunteer Vivienne Wingard, a newcomer to Hopewell, agrees. “I decided to volunteer because I liked HomeFront’s mission; people here seemed so responsive to the community and happy to be involved. And it is an opportunity to spend time with very nice people.”

A New Home

Volunteer and sponsor Ingrid Reed — longtime Princeton resident, HomeFront supporter since its beginnings, and a visiting associate at Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics — points out three important benefits of HomeFront’s Treasure Trove.

“First, it provides new needed funds for HomeFront. Second, it makes friends for HomeFront. People donate money after learning about it, and also many are grateful that the items they donate are valued, admired, and will find a new home, and are part of helping many people in need.

“Finally I like the fact that the store is fun to look at, and it encourages strolling and also going to other places in Hopewell Borough. Happy lookers are good for the community. And many come back to the store to donate and buy.”

“In my own case,” continues Reed, “I was downsizing and moving to a different apartment after my husband (former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin Reed) died. I decided to connect with the team at the then pop-up to see if they wanted things that I could donate — that would be loved by others and make money for HomeFront. That is exactly what happened.

“And then I would find something I needed, such as a large ceramic pot for a plant moving with me and a lovely basket that would look good holding a week-long collection of newspapers!”

“During the time we have been opened, we have discovered what the shoppers like, and some come in every day to see what is new. It changes every day. Some customers also make requests, and we have a Wish List for them,” reports volunteer Ruthann Traylor, who is also the HomeFront ArtSpace director.

“Both donors and shoppers say to us, ‘I’m so glad you are here.’ The customers have been so supportive in many ways. They are all ages and come from all around the area and beyond. The shop has been highly successful, and really exceeded our expectations.”

Entire House

Two customers who have contributed to the shop’s success are Bill and Helen Bikales of Skillman, who moved to New Jersey after many years in China. “We bought a large house and had no furniture,” explains Bill. “We furnished the entire house with items from the shop.”

Adds Helen, “I come here every week to see what new things have come in. The people here are so nice and friendly. They make us feel welcome, and we enjoy coming in.”

As they look ahead, Annie Battle and the team of volunteers are enthusiastic about the future of HomeFront’s Treasure Trove. They also are planning new programs and activities.

“We are hoping to include some creative workshops, speakers, and corporate dinners,” notes Battle. “This is an inviting environment for a variety of events. It can be a multi-faceted use of space.

“We really try to make it special for everyone, and people can come in and feel the joy! They will find there is joy in helping. I love seeing what the donors bring in, meeting all the people, and making lasting connections. We are here to serve the community and HomeFront, and we are here to stay!”

The shop is open Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 12 to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 12 to 4 p.m. Wednesday drop-off hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For further information, call (640) 202-0329 or email artspace@homefrontnj.org.