Solana Beach Meet Your Neighbor: The Saints Thrift Store and Tim O’Shea

By Diane Y. Welch


As St. James Church in Solana Beach celebrates its centennial this year there is a little-known thrift store that has consistently supported the church and its sister mission church, St. Leo, that is worthy of recognition.

Tucked down the side street of Academy Drive, off Stevens Avenue, The Saints Thrift Store has been a fixture in the Eden Gardens area of Solana Beach for 27 years. “We understand that it’s not in a high profile area for drive-by and shopping,” said manager Tim O’Shea. “But it is in the middle of the community that we serve.”

In recent years the store has not only seen a rise in revenue due to increased foot traffic during the economic downturn, but it has been reinvented by O’Shea. It now has a boutique appeal with a designer clothing section, and quality home decor and baby items.

O’Shea drives down to the store from La Costa, where he lives, to oversee the volunteer workforce, and to manage operations. He and his wife moved to the area in 1985 and placed their children in St. James Academy and since then have been supportive parishioners, O’Shea said.

The dynamic of the store is quite unique, said O’Shea, and has a three-fold benefit. It primarily serves low-income families by providing them with some of the everyday necessities at a low cost. Secondly, it allows people to volunteer, with several volunteers having worked at the store for 20-plus years. Thirdly, it provides an easy way for people to support those in need by simply donating their discarded clothing or household items.

From a revenue standpoint the items sold cover the rent and operating overhead. Whatever is made above that goes to support the health clinic at St. Leo Mission. “Folks can go there and pay $10 to have doctors check them out and get them fixed up,” said O’Shea. Earnings also helps support youth groups at St. Leo and St. James.

When O’Shea first took the store over three years ago it was, “Quite a hodge-podge,” he recalled. There was a lot of clutter with no sense of categorization or merchandising. “It just needed some of the fundamental retail elements to improve it.”

O’Shea’s professional background includes employment with Eastman Kodak as a key account manager and a business development manager. A Connecticut native, business brought O’Shea to San Diego 26 years ago. He oversaw large accounts with the military and theme parks. “But essentially I was working in Kodak’s consumer product line, so retail is what I did for many years.”

This experience provided O’Shea with the background to bring some of these retail elements into the thrift store. “I saw an opportunity to make this a nicer place to shop, a place to make it easy for customers to find things that they find appealing, and also to enhance the quality level of the merchandise,” he said. A relationship was established with a clothing resale store in Del Mar that donates expensive garments. “So now we can provide our customers with exceptionally low-priced designer wear.”

The store offers high-end products that appeal to a new shopper — that historically it had not been attracting — as well as maintaining low prices on the basic staples of household items and casual wear for the lower-income shopper. To meet the needs of those who are struggling during the lagging economy, everything in the store, above the price of $1, is half off, every day.

Assistant manager Madeline Green, who opens and manages the store on Friday and Saturday, is a key component to the store’s success, O’Shea said. There is also support from Rev. John Howard and Deacon Peter Hodsdon.

Currently the store is getting ready to introduce its fall line of clothing, which is very strong, said O’Shea. There will be many new quality designer items featured at a low price, such as sweaters, coats and jackets. Volunteers are also working on aesthetic improvements in the store to make the shopping experience even better, he added.

The store is located at 817 Academy Drive. Store hours are Mon.-Sat., from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Donations are accepted from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Call 858-755-0654 for information.