The thrift store at the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) has helped support the organization for more than 15 years. Faced with diminishing profits earlier this year, however, MIFA hired Memphis transplant Amy Hoyt as the store's new director.
While the core of the store's operations remains the same, the store has undergone some visible changes. A longtime thrifter, Hoyt has revamped the labeling system, added a clearance rack, and implemented a new pricing system — changes that have increased traffic to the store and gotten the attention of other local nonprofits.
Hoyt sat down with the Flyer to talk about how she combined her expertise and interests to create her dream job. — Halley Johnson
Flyer: How did you get involved withMIFA? Amy Hoyt: A friend of mine worked at the Church Health Center and she said, "I hear there's trouble a-brewing at the MIFA thrift store." I was a volunteer there, and I thought I can do something about this." So I just sent them an e-mail saying, "Hey, this is my background." And it worked. I just showed up in my thrift-store getup, and they put me in charge.
What about your background qualified you to run the store? In a way, everything. I was the director of a small museum before I moved here. All my background is in nonprofits. I've never worked retail, but I love thrifting. It's been my passion for years. You know, I was a teenager in the '90s when that really came into vogue, so it's just been something I do.
It seems like a natural fit for you.
It's absolutely a dream come true. One of my friends came in the first day I was working here and said, "Isn't this kind of like an alcoholic working at a liquor store?"
The first few weeks my paychecks and how much I was spending in the store were pretty much even.
What separates the MIFA store from other thrift stores in the area? A lot of it is curating. I work really hard to separate the clothing that wouldn't be purchased — the stuff with stains or tears, no one is going to pay for those things. But for people who don't have much, they're perfectly functional.
And MIFA's special, because when you donate to the MIFA store or you shop here, it goes right back into Memphis. Many other thrift stores are national chains, so they only give back a portion to the city they're in.
You're not a native Memphian. What made you choose to live here? My husband and I moved here from Iowa. That's where we were born and raised and went to college, but we always visited Memphis. For years we'd come down for weekends, and now we live in South Main. It was Elvis who brought us here, and it was the city that brought us back. Now I can't ever imagine leaving — I'll be going out in Elmwood Cemetery.
For more, visit Halley Johnson's Save Memphis blog at memphisflyer.com/blogs/SaveMemphis/.