[Editor's Note: This YouTube video was shared with San Carlos Patch by Peninsula Family Service.]
On the south end of Laurel Street, away from the buzzing coffee shops, bustling restaurants and the chock-full parking lots, lies a little known area that is quietly making a name for itself as the "Green End" of the street. Green, because it promotes the recycling, reusing and repurposing of perfectly good items at incredible prices.
Anchoring this end of the Laurel " the road less traveled" Street, is The Family Tree at 1589 Laurel St., a thrift store deftly run by the Red-Car-Bel Auxiliary, and benefitting Peninsula Family Service (PFS). Since 1968 The Family Tree has donated over $1 million to PFS (formerly known as the Family Service Agency of San Mateo County).
The Family Tree is open year-round, but once Halloween is over, the 60 member volunteer staff transforms the cheery shop into a Christmas Boutique--with a rotating stock of everything from Christmas ornaments and stuffed Santas to men's blazers and snazzy women's New Years Eve outfits.
On a recent visit, Michael O'Donahue, came in just to browse because, as he puts it, "Who can miss the Christmas Boutique?"
O'Donahue says his sons are now fighting over a blazer he recently bought at The Family Tree.
"I found two sport coats that fit me perfectly here. One was cashmere and one was camel hair---I think I paid $5 for both!" said O'Donahue.
"People don't know we're here," said Linda Westerhouse of this lively operation, where on Mondays and Fridays the back room is busy with volunteers whose sole job is to take inventory of new items, tag them and get them ready for the stores shelves and racks.
"Our back room is the heart of our organization," she said.
"You name it, we have a volunteer who does it," said Westerhouse, the shop's volunteer organizer. She noted that The Family Tree has no paid employees and that the volunteers not only run the store, but maintain the shop, make repairs, and collect, sort and stock the donated items.
And the items, according to Westerhouse, are constantly being refreshed and updated due to the ongoing inventory that comes through that back room. However, The Family Tree always welcomes new donations.
"We particulary need hard items, such as glasses, dishes, small appliances, nik-naks--either holiday or year round," said Westerhouse.
She noted that donations can be dropped off during business hours, and donors wil receive receipts for tax purposes.
Clothing is one of the hottest items year-round at The Family Tree.
"We price clothing to go out the door, and some of it has never been worn," said Westerhouse.
"Some customers come in on a regular basis--some daily--because we have an inventory that is always being refreshed and the prices are so good," said one volunteer.
Westerhouse noted that the shop has "Angel Givers" in San Carlos--businesses who donate extra inventory or over-stocked items.
Of course, sometimes even successful thrift stores have items they can't use, so Westerhouse says that those items are given to various charities such as St. Vincent de Paul, Lions Club, Pets in Need and Hope Lutheran Church.
The Christmas Boutique is in full swing through December 15. Westerhouse stressed that 100 percent of the proceeds from the Christmas Boutique benefit Peninsula Family Service.
The Family Tree is located at 1589 Laurel St. in San Carlos. For more information, click here.