Volunteer Carron Hardin, left, and store employee Gabby Ruth on the job at Secondhand Treasures in Corrales. “It’s the best job I ever had,” Ruth said. The store is at risk of closing, but “it’s not a failed business.” (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

CORRALES – LouAnn Jordan recalls the time a man came into Secondhand Treasures, the thrift store on Corrales Road, and discovered a didgeridoo, an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument played by vibrating the lips to turn out an eerie, almost otherworldly drone.

“The gentleman knew how to play those horns,” said Jordan, a volunteer at the thrift store. “He played it, and then he turned around and bought it.”

So what are the chances of a shopper in Corrales knowing how to play an exotic instrument from Down Under?

Never mind that. What are the chances of a store in Corrales having such an instrument among its merchandise?

At Secondhand Treasures, where you can purchase everything from an antique deviled eggs platter to a colorfully painted papier-mâché duck, the odds might be better than you think.

“You trip across some little treasure you didn’t know you needed – scarves, purses, shirts and dresses,” said Debbie Haycraft, a devoted customer. “I love the jewelry table that makes for nice, little gifts because (the jewelry) is so reasonably priced.”

Items sold at the store are donated by the public.

Store volunteer Carron Hardin said her husband made a rule that if she bought something at the store, she had to donate something to it. She doesn’t pay attention to the rule.

“But as far as donations, if you are into sustainability, as we all need to be, instead of the dump, you can take things to this store, a place where someone comes in and it’s the best thing they have ever seen,” Hardin said. “And in the end, 100% of the profits go to animals in need, and that really tugs at my heart.”

Secondhand Treasures, open noon-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday, is operated by Southwest Animal Rescue Fund Inc., a nonprofit whose mission is to aid animals, primarily dogs, in need.

“Anything that is helping animals is worthwhile. It is the right thing to do,” Haycraft said. “There are always people at that store. There is usually a rescue dog running around or behind the counter. I’m disappointed they are not open every day.”

The fact is, however, that Secondhand Treasures may not be open any day for much longer.

Great resource

Nancy Baumgardner, president of Southwest Animal Rescue Fund and manager of Secondhand Treasures, is sitting among the store’s eclectic, often elegant, occasionally eccentric inventory. Usually, this is a cheerful setting that hums to a positive vibe.

But on this day, Baumgardner is disturbed by the noise made by men putting up a sign in the store’s parking lot. The sign gives notice that the property is for sale.

The owners are selling the building and the lot it sits on for more than SWARF, which has been leasing the space, can afford to pay.

“It is pretty much inevitable that we are going to have to close,” Baumgardner said. “We have looked at every property up and down Corrales Road and have found nothing.” She said the business needs a site of at least 3,000 square feet.

The building that houses it now, the original site of the community grocery store Frontier Mart and later the Bunkhouse furniture business, is 3,500 square feet.

“We want to stay in Corrales,” Baumgardner said. “It is a destination area. We get repeat visitors during the (Albuquerque International) Balloon Fiesta.”

But it is also a village focal point.

“It’s a place where all the people can donate their stuff, a place for people to meet friends and neighbors,” she said.

Customer Abby Dix shops at Secondhand Treasures for glassware, “beautiful dishes” and horse tack.

“It’s not like a normal thrift store,” Dix said. “It’s really high quality. Everyone is nice and they seem to know you. The store is really well organized and stocked. I donate there every time I move or clean house – tables, chairs, books, housewares. It’s a great resource for people and a wonderful thing for the dogs.”

‘Here’s the plan’

Secondhand Treasures has been in business, always at its present location, for more than 11 years. The store was closed nearly 14 months during the height of the pandemic, but despite that it has funneled a half million dollars into payments for veterinary bills, food, boarding, transport, rehabilitation, training and spay and neuter procedures, Baumgardner said.

“Until the past few years (SWARF) did a lot of direct rescue, such as pulling dogs from high-kill shelters around New Mexico, fostering them until they were physically and mentally ready to be adopted and finding homes for them,” she said. “But that is so emotionally and physically exhausting, gut-wrenching work.”

Now, the organization focuses on funding other New Mexico animal rescue and assistance organizations, such as NMDOGS, the OSCAR Foundation, Argos and Spay-Neuter Coalition of New Mexico.

Baumgardner said SWARF has contributed money to international groups engaged in rescuing animals from the war in Ukraine and provided assistance to those helping animals affected by New Mexico’s wildfires. SWARF also maintains a sanctuary for old, sick, injured and other animals that are not adoptable.

Even if Secondhand Treasures closes, Baumgardner said the rescue fund will continue its work.

“We have a little money in the bank,” she said. “Here’s the plan. We will have weeklong sales at cut-rate, but not give-away, prices. We will give a lot (of merchandise) to the OSCAR Foundation. Then we will store the rest at my house and have garage sales, maybe some online sales.”

But it won’t be the same.

Short time

Beth Quinn, a retired kindergarten to eighth grade teacher with the Albuquerque Public Schools, is in charge of the used-books section at Secondhand Treasures.

“You walk in here and you are in this cabin full of merchandise,” she said. “I try not to bring home something every day. Books are my baby. Most of the time (I buy) books; some artwork, little watercolors; and little wooden boxes because everyone needs wooden boxes.

“The volunteers are full of energy and outgoing. Everybody gets along. It’s the kind of place you look forward to going into.”

Volunteer Jordan first got involved with SWARF when she enlisted its aid to rescue a dog from a small-town animal shelter. Now, she owns the dog whose rescue she initiated and once a week she makes the 80-mile, hour and a quarter drive from San Acacia in Socorro County to work at the store.

“It’s a great group of women, all wanting to help the animals, all of us in there for the animals,” she said of the store’s volunteers.

The half dozen volunteers are in their 60s or 70s.

But Gabby Ruth, Secondhand Treasure’s one paid employee, is 30. Because of the store’s uncertain future she is looking for another job, but she does not want to leave the thrift store.

“Working there has honestly been the best job I have ever had,” Ruth said. “Everyone knows everyone and helps each other out. It’s good to see where the proceeds go. It’s a warm atmosphere.”

Ruth said store customers range in age from young teens to older adults.

“We’ve got a Christmas corner – ornaments, mugs, nutcrackers – sold year round. We’ve got rocks – mica, petrified wood with copper, banite, fluorite. Somebody came in here one day and bought $600 worth of rocks.”

She paused as she gazed around the store she has known for years but that changes every day. She still holds out hope that another property might become available in Corrales, but she realizes time is running short at this site.

“It’s sad because it is not a failed business,” she said. “It’s a really successful business and people love it. But we have to go.”

UpFront is a Journal front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Ollie Reed at 505-823-3916 or [email protected].

If you go