Kensington’s Antique Row houses more than 80 shops, selling a variety of artwork, furniture, china, textiles, and gifts. Only one store, however, doubles as a not-for-profit agency.
The Prevention of Blindness Antique Shop, located on Howard Avenue in the heart of Antique Row, sells a wide variety of items, ranging from clothes to jewelry to VHS cassettes. Surrounded by other stores all selling similar items, The Prevention of Blindness stands out because everything it sells has been donated, and all proceeds go directly to the Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington.
Manager Barbara Galitzin, who has worked for the organization for 16 years, including the last eight at the Kensington store, is the only employee to receive a paycheck. The rest of the staff members are volunteering their time for the charity.
According to its website (www.youreyes.org), the Prevention of Blindness Society provides services, such as vision screenings and eyeglass clinics, education, and advocacy to improve and preserve the sight of more than 12,000 people annually. Opened 36 years ago, the Kensington antique store is one of two local shops dedicated to raising money for the organization.
“Everyone who shops here knows that it is for a great cause, and our volunteers all work very hard to help the organization,” said Galitzin. “We’ve set up a great system.”
Originally, the society organized flea markets around the region to raise funds. However, the donations they received quickly began to exceed the available space, and officials decided a more permanent solution was needed. According to Galitzin, Kensington’s Antique Row was an obvious decision.
Over three decades later, the store has established a niche in an area where it is surrounded by similar stores. All items are donated, and Galitzin said that prices are determined by demand. The store accepts almost all donations, so customers can find anything from expensive artwork and furniture to 20-year-old movies and video games.
“I shop here all the time,” said Mia Reeve, who also donates items to the store regularly. “As someone who wears glasses, it’s a great organization to support.”
In fact, sometimes there can be too many donations. On the front entrance of the store, a sign reads that due to lack of space, certain items such as old electronics will not be accepted. According to Galitzin, the sign was a result of people donating any items they were trying to get rid of, resulting in the store having to pay to throw them out.
As a resale store, sometimes Galitzin receives items so strange she does not know what to do with them.
“The weirdest thing anyone ever donated was an old vicar coffin, complete with a life-size china doll inside,” said Galitzin. “We had no idea what to do. Luckily we managed to sell it to someone who wanted it for a musical production. Since it was around Halloween, we kept it out in front of the store, and that day about ten people came in and said they wanted to buy it.”
As a non-profit agency, Galitzin is dependent on local residents to volunteer to help her run the store. On a Friday afternoon, a group of three women help Galitzin aid customers, restock items, and operate the cash register.
“I’ve been helping out whenever I can for a while now,” said Lydia Belfiore. “I like seeing what comes in, and it’s for a good cause. Plus Barbara is great to work for.”