The year was 1962.
Billie Smoot, whose husband, Jack, owned Langley Shopping Center on Chain Bridge Road, made a suggestion at a meeting of the Fairfax Hospital Auxiliary; in that year, the words “auxiliary” was almost synonymous with the word “ladies.”
Why not raise money for the hospital by starting a consignment shop?
“We were all ready for it,” said an auxiliary member who was then a stay-at-home mother.
From her home on Calder Street in central Mclean, Iva Froelich could walk to the shop, which opened in a rented house on Old Dominion Drive. The wife of Stuart Udall, secretary of the Interior, cut the ribbon.
Forty years later, the Treasure Trove is still around, still accepting consignments and donations, selling them, and raising about $250,000 a year for Inova Fairfax Hospital.
And Froelich is still working there as a volunteer.
Presently, the Auxiliary is working to raise $3 million to meet its pledge to pay for the lobby in a new hospital facility to care for heart patients, said the present shop chairman, Carol Lukas said.
The Treasure Trove has moved only once, to Salona Village Shopping Center, where it is a fixture, just a few doors down from McLean Family Restaurant.
It ran without a manager for the first 28 years, but “we made so much money they needed someone to handle the finances,” Lukas said.
EVERY DAY, people come to bring their cast-offs and their dearest possessions, make prices, and make them available for sale.
The Auxiliary gets a cut of 40 percent.
With that, the group pays rent, two salaries and utility bills. It rents a space of 1,840 square feet and pays the full market price of $29 per square foot, just like the other tenants.
Revenue varies month to month with the donations, said shop chairman Carol Lukas.
“More is donated than we pay to the consignors,” she said. “Each month is different.”
“There’s no doubt this place is growing,” said Froelich, who at 83, just started her 41st year as a volunteer. “The price is right,” she said.
The Treasure Trove is just that — a place of unexpected surprises interspersed with an occasional lifted eyebrow as shoppers go over the offerings.
It’s more of a boutique, really, said Lukas.
There are bargains such as Chanel’s original “little black dress” at $9.50; or a mink stole with a sable collar and a Garfinkel’s label, valued by its consignor at $5,000 and priced at $750; a gold bracelet at $150; and a vintage prom gown for $11.50. A solid rosewood desk is offered at $645; Barry Bonds baseball cards are $21 to $30.
There are silly ties, colorful accessories, jeans, tweed jackets, and household items for just a few dollars.
Drama departments from local schools and community theater groups come in to look for costumes and accessories for the stage, she said.
People from third world countries buy $200 worth of $1 items to send back home. These are the sources of inspiration that bring out the good-heartedness in the volunteers who work at the store.
“I know there are people at the cash register who will put it in, if you don’t have enough,” said Lukas. Ed Homes is one example; he took $3 from his wallet and put it in the cash register as an assist to a woman who came up short.
Consignments are accepted every day between 10 and 11:50 a.m.
PEOPLE WHO BRING THEIR BELONGINGS for consignment love The Treasure Trove.
“You know this is the greatest place. Everybody loves this place. I consign at several places, and the others are a burden and a chore,” said Ed Haak, a regular.
“I’m selling my mom’s clothes for money,” said Maggie Toepffer Alexander, a recent college graduate, who is looking for a job.
Mary Ann Schall stood in line to have her items evaluated. She said the Treasure Trove is fun, and a chance to “Empty the house. Get rid of the junk you don’t want, and get stuff you do,” Schall said.