Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

Great Stuff: Walk in for a deal, walk out with new friends

Katie KazimirCulture, Headlines

Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

Great Stuff Savvy Resale and Home store in Talleyville offers upscale thrifting and friendly staff, while helping to fund breast cancer programs. Photo by Katie Kazimir

TALLEYVILLE – The positive vibe inside Great Stuff Savvy Resale & Home store is palpable the moment you walk into this upscale thrift store.

In addition to its attractively displayed designer clothing, accessories and house accents, there’s almost always a happy buzz of volunteers, staff and shoppers.

Great Stuff’s impact is much wider. Its profits – $170,000 last year – have been a major source of funds for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition programs since the store opened in 2010.

This year 1,140 Delaware women are expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer and 60 are expected to die because of it.

“We needed a way to raise money year-round,” said Katelyn Bender, the coalition’s communications director. “October is a very popular month to support DBCC but then partnerships tend to slow down.”

For many of the volunteers and shoppers, the store is more than a conduit to a stylish bargain.

“The ‘great stuff’ isn’t just the clothing and accessories. It’s the people,” said breast cancer survivor Jeannine Herrmann of North Wilmington. 

Herrmann started working at Great Stuff in 2018 after the death of her mom, whom for years she’d been bringing to the store to shop.

“She would have a seat by one of the dressing rooms and the volunteers would fawn all over her and make her feel so special,” Herrmann said.

Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

There’s usually a buzz in Great Stuff, whether it’s shoppers on the hunt or staff and volunteers at work. Photo by Katie Kazimir

While the shop has two paid managers, the rest of its staff is volunteers, many of whom either had breast or another type of cancer, or were close to someone who did.

Many become volunteers after first becoming friendly with the staff, like Herrmann.

“I already felt like I was part of the family before volunteering,” said Herrmann, who was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 33. She’s now in her 70s.

On Friday, at least a dozen people –  volunteers, staff and shoppers – happily milled about.

Galina Chadwick of Wilmington was hunting for vintage treasures, as she regularly does, particularly purses and jewelry.

“Great Stuff has really couture stuff you can’t get anywhere else, unless you’re in Paris, Rome or New York,” Chadwick said.

She often donates items to Great Stuff while purchasing new stuff from the thrift store.

Her favorite find so far has been a classic two-piece Chanel suit.

Chadwick said Great Stuff Savvy fills needs other than fulfilling the thrill of thrifting.

Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

Galina Chadwick of Wilmington checks out an Yves St. Laurent dress at Great Stuff Savvy Resale & Home store. Photo by Katie Kazimir

“It’s environmentally friendly – extending the life of something instead of going out and buying something new,” she said.

Manager Trish Cullen and Assistant Manager Lorena Hendrickson are the only two paid staff members, and  both say they love coming to work every day. 

About 50 volunteers rotate shifts, some working in the retail storefront and others handling the intake of donated items in the back.

The managers and volunteers often come to know the shoppers, many of whom stop in at least once a week – or more often when they have the chance.

Herrmann began volunteering after being diagnosed with breast cancer as a single mom with two young boys. 

“Could I tell you what type of breast cancer I had or what stage I was diagnosed? No. I was in shock,” Herrmann said. “At that time 33-year-olds weren’t common with breast cancer.”

Herrmann now works at Great Stuff to support the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, which offers a variety of programs and services for women and men diagnosed with breast cancer at any age.

Young Survivors in Action specifically supports those diagnosed at a young age like Herrmann so they can share experiences and receive support relative to their life stages and future planning.

Herrmann values the relationships she’s made through Great Stuff.

“It’s a sisterhood,” she said. “Our customers feel the same way. They’re part of us.”

Shoppers come looking for deals on high end fashion and housewares, but leave with  supportive new friends who often will recruit them to work at the store, Herrmann said.

Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

These Great Stuff badges await the 50-plus volunteers, many who are breast cancer survivors, who work part-time at the store. Photo by Katie Kazimir

Great Stuff style hunters

Those who enter the store are met with a small selection of housewares at the front, jewelry in cases to the left, accessories and dressing rooms lining the back wall, and a colorful array of designer fashions filling the bulk of the space, merchandised as if they were in a major department store.

Chadwick said she has a routine when she arrives at Great Stuff Savvy. 

First, she hits up the jewelry counter, “because that’s what I collect,” she said.

“Then I move to purses, bags and shoes. Then I do clothes last,” Chadwick detailed. 

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Expect to be doted over while visiting Great Stuff Savvy. The volunteers are happy to serve as quasi personal shoppers, assisting clientele in the hunt for the perfect outfit, accessories and home furnishings. 

Most items are priced at about a third of what they would have cost if bought new – though a rack of clothing by the dressing room featured finds for only $3. 

“You might find a $500 designer blazer for $100,” said the coalition’s Bender.

In the backroom are stations for incoming donations to be sorted, with only the finest items selected for resale.

Great Stuff accepts donations of “high end, gently loved clothing in excellent condition,” in addition to “small lamps, art, decor, home accents and little unique home furnishings.”

Merchandise that is not suited for Great Stuff Savvy is bagged and donated to shelters or other area thrift stores.

For a look inside Great Stuff Savvy, go to their Instagram page, where a new video with the latest donations and deals is featured every Saturday. 

Great Stuff Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition

Volunteers Carolyn Mills, left, and Jeannine Herrmann say the women who work and volunteer at Great Stuff share a bond of sisterhood, much like a sorority.
Photo by Katie Kazimir

One of Herrmann’s closest friendships formed through Great Stuff is with shopper-turned-volunteer Carolyn Mills of Bear.

Mills began volunteering a year ago, and lost her husband of 43 years in December after he had a long battle with multiple melanoma cancer.

“I wanted to do some volunteering somewhere local that would benefit that ‘C’ word,” she said.

One Wednesday afternoon Mills stopped in to do some shopping and inquired about becoming a volunteer.

“They went and got Trish from the back,” Mills said.

“I think I ordered you a name tag that day. I just knew she was one of us,” chimed in manager Trish Cullen.

“I started the next day, a Thursday,” Mills said. She’s been volunteering every Tuesday and Thursday since.

The move was divine timing, she said. It gave her invaluable support while her husband was losing his fight against multiple melanoma 

“These ladies always asked about him. Especially Trish. Everyone was there for me,” Mills said.

“Just as much as you have been there for us,” Cullen injected. 


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