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Retailer spotlight: AbleLight Thrift Shop

Store shelf with games, a record player, and ceramics

AbleLight (formerly Bethesda Lutheran Communities) is a non-profit organization that provides support for people with developmental disabilities. As a means to support the organization’s group home facilities, AbleLight began opening thrift shops in 1960.  


“We truly believe in and advocate for our non-profit’s mission,” says AbleLight's Ann Blatzheim, “and feel that as our business grows, our organization can help more people with developmental disabilities.” 


The store’s vast product mix, including many high-quality items, entices customers to return often, according to Blatzheim. “We have a large volume of donations, so we are extremely fortunate on how much product we can have out on our sales floor. Our inventory turns over quickly so it is easy to find something new. We organize our store like a retail shop with designated areas so it is easy to find a treasure in a hurry.”

AbleLight recently launched an online shopping option,

Blatzheim says the store’s Facebook page gives followers an insider’s sneak peek at upcoming sales and events. They can also access DIY project ideas and view the outfit of the week. “Our color tag sales run from Sunday to Saturday, and we post them on our Facebook page at 8 p.m. the night prior to the sale. So, Sunday is a good day to come in to shop for the best selection on 50% off clearance items.”

Store shelf showing jewelry displays and other gifts

While AbleLight does have a core group of customers, each day brings new faces, too. “Once we get someone in the store, they become regular customers,” Blatzheim says.

Blatzheim comes to AbleLight with a background in retail management, and is working on her second graduate degree. “I was a shopper and noticed they were hiring, and at the time I was looking for part-time, which turned into full-time.” Her wardrobe is largely made up of items from AbleLight, and she loves the big difference between retail prices vs. thrift store prices.  

“Customers do comment that they shop here because they care about the environment and would rather reuse than purchase new,” she says. The store emphasizes maximizing the longevity of a product, keeping it out of the trash. “Most of our customers love saving money by buying thrifted items versus buying new at retail prices, while helping the environment,” she says.  

We rely on the help of over 100 volunteers in our store and donation center,” Blatzheim says. “The volunteers price products, assist at the donation door, organize store shelves and create product displays.”

Clothing racks full of colorful clothing

The movement to waste less and live better encourages residents to buy used goods, repair their items, refuse unnecessary “extras,” and rent or borrow used gear rather than buying new – not only to reduce waste and preserve natural resources, but to save money. By pledging to waste less and live better, residents receive valuable waste reduction tips and regular email alerts about upcoming sales and events. Learn more and subscribe today.