Shopping at the Golden Goose is like reaching into a box of chocolates — you never know what you're going to get.
The Golden Goose is a thrift store in Catalina. In this economy, the "Goose" is thriving. This Saturday, March 20, the Golden Goose will have a grand re-opening in its newly constructed building, located in the Golden Goose Plaza at 15970 N. Oracle Rd.
Besides being a haven for bargain hunters — some shoppers stop by every day — it is a social and community touchstone for the communities of Catalina, SaddleBrooke and beyond, and a local charitable powerhouse, helping to fund charitable programs throughout the area.
"We simply outgrew the old location," said Stephanie Urdiales, general manager.
The new building is 13,000 square feet, twice as large as the previous location. There are 140 new parking spaces. With lending assistance from Wells Fargo Bank, the land, financing and construction are being paid for completely with monies raised in the selling of donated merchandise at the Goose, according to Urdiales. The Golden Goose is a 501©3 non-profit organization with two paid employees and more than 400 volunteers.
"We paid rent at the old location," Urdiales said. "In the next 15 years, we would have paid as much in rent as this building cost."
Like the goose who laid the golden eggs, the real treasure at the Goose is the volunteers, according to Urdiales.
"They are like family and the most wonderful people I have ever worked with," she said. "Doctors, dentists, engineers, attorneys, teachers, people who worked in the clothing and fashion industry, we have a tremendous pool of wealth and knowledge in our volunteers."
Smokey Norton drives all the way down from Dudleyville to volunteer. She and Sue Bellian of SaddleBrooke are arranging baskets, getting ready for opening day.
"I do what needs to be done and help clean the silver," said Smokey. "I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and when I was 3 months old, a rat as big as a cat bit me on the foot. I cried so much that my voice turned hoarse, like it was smoked-filled. I've been called Smokey ever since."
Leo Esterl fixes clocks. He was a toolmaker / engineer in Germany. As a volunteer, Esterl repairs donated clocks. He is currently working on a French mantle clock from the 1800s. It weighs 25 pounds, is 16 inches tall and is made of slate on the outside. Similar clocks on eBay have been valued from $1,000 up to $36,000, according to Esterl.
"Repairing clocks is new to me. It's a challenge and a hobby," he said.
All the merchandise sold at the Golden Goose is donated. The donor base is SaddleBrooke, Sun City, Oro Valley, Dove Mountain, Catalina and up to Oracle, according to Urdiales. Donations can be brought to the store, or people may call 825-9101 for truck pickup. "We need items to be in good working order," she said.
The eclectic nature of the donated items brings in the shoppers.
" You never know what treasures you're going to find," said Eddie Medina, assistant manager.
Examples: How about a polar bear rug with head, teeth and claws, and a therapy-sleeping capsule similar to the one Michael Jackson used to sleep in?
"We also occasionally get high fashion couture clothing," added Urdiales. "One time we got a box filled with dirty and we thought useless stuff. We were about to throw it away. However, inside was a little green bear, one of our volunteers recognized it, the bear's head screwed off and inside was a glass flask, filled with perfume and very valuable."
"We do sell some items on eBay and have our own website at goldengooseaz.com. In our new store, there will be computers where customers can come in, look up and bid on our items listed on eBay."
The Golden Goose has plenty of other items for sale besides antiques and collectibles. There are tools, books, housewares, appliances, televisions, games, sofas, chairs, sporting goods, leisure wear … on and on. Unlike most thrift stores, the Goose doesn't take any and everything. It tries to maintain a higher degree of quality merchandise, and what it doesn't accept is passed on to other thrift stores.
"As a rule, we try to price an item one-half to one-quarter its original value. Pricing is determined by comparison shopping, years of experience and we also constantly run special 25 percent to 75 percent off sales," said Urdiales.
She is most proud of the charitable works funded by the Golden Goose. The monies are divided equally between SaddleBrooke Community Outreach and Catalina Community Services. One of the SaddleBrooke programs is Kid's Closet: clothes for more than 3,000 kids, brand-new wardrobes twice a year for children in Catalina and San Carlos. At Catalina Community Services, monies from the Golden Goose help fund the food and clothing bank and the senior Meals on Wheels program.
Grand opening of the Golden Goose in its new location is March 20-27.
"It's going to be a Goose-A-Palooza," said Urdiales. "Eight straight days of non-stop shopping fun. It will be like Woodstock."