Aspen Thrift Shop empowers women while supporting community since 1949 |

Aspen Thrift Shop empowers women while supporting community since 1949

Lynda MacCarthy, Margie Throm and Shauna Young in front of the Valentine's Day themed window display of Aspen Thrift Shop.
Audrey Ryan/The Aspen Times

In a little building nestled on Hopkins Avenue downtown lives a part of the “heart and soul” of Aspen in the form of a thrift shop.

The shop is run by about 200 volunteers — all women. There are second- and even third-generation volunteers who work shifts there twice a month.

“The friendship part is really a huge piece of (volunteering),” said Aspen Thrift Shop Co-Treasurer Lynda MacCarthy, who began volunteering at the shop in the 1980s. “The empowerment of women helping women is a big piece of it, too.”

Aspen Thrift Shop, circa 1966.
Courtesy of Aspen Thrift Shop

Co-President Shauna Young’s mother got involved with the shop in the early 1980s and eventually became president and then treasurer of the organization. Margie Throm, who serves as both co-treasurer and co-president of the organization, also is a second-generation volunteer.

“Margie and I always were a part of the Thrift Shop as far as I can remember,” said Young. 

MacCarthy worked on the same days as Young’s mother, and a friendship was born. Young remembers her mom saying her shifts were a time to go hang out with friends.

“You have a team, and you become very close with them,” MacCarthy said. 

The volunteer team now consists of a mix of high schoolers, retirees, teachers, young adults, and many more, and the one thing they all have in common is all the volunteers are women.

“We can run a business with heart and make money with heart,” MacCarthy said of her female volunteer team.

“Being able to be with my best friends every two weeks for a whole day is huge,” said Throm. “Emotionally, it’s a huge gift for me and for all of us to be able to have that connection.”

Aspen Thrift Shop in the 2022 Fourth of July Parade.
Courtesy of Aspen Thrift Shop

Aspen Thrift Shop was founded in 1949 to help the old citizen’s hospital. Today, it serves the community by selling donated clothes, hats, shoes, kitchenware, books, and so much more to give grants to other non-profits in the valley, as well as provide scholarships for high school graduates.

“I feel that it’s an honor and a privilege to work here. We’re a really fun, philanthropic community here,” said Throm. 

The thrift shop accepts donations of clothing, footwear, outdoor gear, sporting equipment, household goods, kitchen items, small appliances, linens, toys, and luggage during store hours. Items will make their way into a sorting room, where the volunteers go through each item to check for anything that would prevent them from being sold, such as rips or stains, she said. 

“We keep so much stuff out of the landfill because we sell it,” Young said.

MacCarthy added that the shop sees a lot of designer and high-end brands come through. These items are placed in the “boutique” section and are generally priced a bit higher but are still affordable for designer and high-end labels. 

“We’re trying to maximize the amount of money we can give away and still really support the community,” Young said.

Although thrifting wasn’t trendy when MacCarthy, Throm, and Young were growing up, they have noticed an influx of high schoolers coming to shop for secondhand items.

“It’s great that that attitude has changed because you know there’s too much stuff in the world,” said Young.

Diverting usable items from landfills is only one of the many ways Aspen Thrift Shop helps to support the Aspen community.

The shop gives out scholarships to high school seniors that allow the students to follow whatever path is right for them — whether that be college or a technical school. It awards $75,000 in scholarships annually to Aspen, Basalt, and Roaring Fork high-school students.

The kids who get the scholarships may not look quite as good on paper but have something special, Young said. Scholarships go to kids who really need it, and sometimes the scholarship makes the difference between a student going to their first choice of university instead of their second.

Throm and MacCarthy remember one student who got a scholarship and used it to “blossom.” Although the student had average scores on paper, they had curiosities about animals and gardening and went on to win awards.

“I still get goosebumps,” Throm said.

In addition to the scholarships they give out annually, the thrift shop gives grants to local organizations. They currently support 150-200 Roaring Fork Valley non-profits, with a focus on non-profits that support arts, community, education, environment, and youth activities.

“We want to make a difference in the community. We do make a difference in the community,” MacCarthy said. “Without the generosity of this community, we would not have this thrift shop.”

To find out more about donation guidelines, grants, scholarships, or to volunteer, visit