Five Fabulous (Gay) Thrift Store Years: ‘Out of the Closet’ Celebrates Aniversary
When Paul Stanley arrived in South Florida by way of Rhode Island nearly five years ago, his sole purpose was to stay by his ill father. After his father passed away, Stanley planned on going back home, but saw an opening for a cashier position at the Out of the Closet thrift store in Wilton Manors.
“I saw a sign on the building and that said they were looking,” Stanley said. “I applied, got the job, and haven’t left since.”
In the last five years, Stanley has worked his way up from cashier to store manager to district manager of retail operations — the title he holds now. Out of the Closet will celebrate their five-year South Florida anniversary on Jan. 25. Since their California birth a quarter of a century ago, the thrift store has opened 22 locations. All but one — in Amsterdam – are in the U.S.
Out of the Closet was born out of the mind of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Co-Founder Michael Weinstein. AHF originally started in 1987 as AIDS Hospice Forms, but transitioned to AIDS Healthcare Foundation in 1990, the same year the first Out of the Closet opened.
The thrift store is the only retailer where proceeds go to HIV/AIDS medical care. Plus, it serves as a clinic and free testing facility for those who are looking to get tested. It’s also a full pharmacy for the entire community — not just those living with HIV/AIDS. The pharmacy takes insurance just like any other clinic.
The testing center has trained staffers who not only administer test results, but also support patients if their test results come back positive.
“They don’t just come in, get tested, and we throw them out,” Stanley said. “We take care of them.”
Out of the Closet pharmacists and technicians connect patients to doctors and the medical attention they need. It’s more than just a thrift store.
But the thrift store is what helps run the testing operations. For every dollar spent in the store, 96 cents contributes to free HIV/AIDS testing, medications for people who can’t afford them and patient advocacy.
“That $1 you only think is just a $1 is saving someone’s life. It’s not just a thrift store to get a deal,” Stanley said. Stores rely solely on donations from the public.
And not just donations from the gay community, but the entire South Florida community. Between the four South Florida stores — Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and South Beach — the thrift store has two trucks that go out five days a week for furniture pick-ups or donations from people that are unable to drop off at a store.
While Stanley says they don’t have any South Florida expansion plans yet, they are always looking for locations that are a good match for the store as well as the pharmacy.
For more information, visit www.outofthecloset.org or AIDS Healthcare Foundation at www.aidshealth.org
If you go
Saturday, Jan. 26, 10 a.m.to 5 p.m.
Out of the Closet
2097 Wilton Drive
Wilton Manors, FL 33305
Specials all day, including 20 percent off furniture.