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A city treasure

Small consignment shop started 50 years ago provides big help for a variety of local nonprofit groups

By CLARK MASON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A few blocks from Railroad Square, close to the soup kitchen and a homeless shelter, sits a little consignment shop with an eclectic mix of merchandise.


SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE: Volunteer Judy Johnson shows a piece of jewelry to a customer at the Treasure House north of Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square. (BETH SCHLANKER / The Press Democrat)

Inside the “Treasure House” as it’s known, you might find an old vinyl record album for $1, a mink stole for $75, various types of crystal, vintage dishes, table settings, oriental vases, or even a child’s doll from another era.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of antiques and collectibles goes to a number of charitable causes, including a shelter for battered women, the Redwood Gospel Mission and St. Vincent de Paul kitchen.

“It’s a great feeling to know you’re able to help those who walk by,” said Henrietta Sommerville, president of Treasure House, referring to some of the neighborhood denizens.

Helping women and children who are in need or abused is “a very fulfilling feeling,” she said.

“Giving to local charities, especially charities for women, children and underprivileged, it makes you feel kind of lucky,” said Barbara O’Connell, a volunteer at Treasure House.

The nonprofit consignment store was founded 50 years ago by Santa Rosa couple Burt and Buddy Howell, and was originally located in an old house in the 800 block of Third Street.

Since 1978, it’s been at 700 Wilson St., in a building formerly occupied by Castino’s Restaurant Supply.

The volunteers put up with a perennial leaky roof in the winter at the out-of-the-way location at the corner of Eighth Street, but have managed to survive.

There are loyal customers. “Our prices are excellent. We have regulars in all the time,” O’Connell said.

The 75 or so members — mostly women — pay $20 annually in dues, which gives them the opportunity to sell goods on consignment. Seventy percent of the sales price goes to the consignors and the rest for Treasure House to dole out to charities and pay some expenses, including rent.

“We are all volunteers. None of us is paid. All the profits go to local charities in the area,” O’Connell said.

This year through September, the organization has generated more than $9,000 to give to local organizations. They include the YWCA Safe House, Kids Street Learning Center, and Worth our Weight, a culinary apprentice program for disadvantaged teens and young adults.

Currently, the volunteers at Treasure House are gearing up for a “Christmas Boutique” of holiday-themed items that will be on sale Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

But for customers who can’t wait, there’s already a corner of the store dedicated to Christmas villages and reindeer.

(You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com.)