Located on Orange Avenue in downtown Sarasota, the Woman’s Exchange is a consignment store like no other. It began in 1962 with the idea to create a business means of supporting local arts in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The Woman’s Exchange was formed as a result, offering affordably priced treasures like Tiffany silver, Gucci handbags, fine jewelry, women’s clothing, high-end furniture, oriental rugs, and more. In fact, Lara Spencer of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” even lists the Woman’s Exchange as one of her favorite places to shop in her book, I Brake for Yard Sales.
Along with a staff of nearly 20 employees, the 12,000 square foot store has over 230 dedicated volunteers who ensure that the ever-changing inventory is filled to the brim. Individuals are able to designate specific participating charities to receive their consignor profits, which is 65 percent of sale price. Additionally, any unsold clothing, furniture, and household items are typically donated to other local non-profit organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the Pines of Sarasota.
Through its consignment operation, the Woman’s Exchange has awarded more than $7.8 million in grants and scholarships to support the arts of Sarasota and Manatee, such as the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, Asolo Theatre, Sarasota Opera, student scholarships, and more.
Resident Barbara MacLean became involved with the Woman’s Exchange nearly 26 years ago. At the suggestion of a friend, Barbara began as a seasonal volunteer when she and her husband spent their winters on Longboat Key, and continued her involvement when they moved to Sarasota full-time. Barbara works at the front desk, helping to check out customers and package their items. “The fun part is getting to know the customers,” she says. “People come from all over — New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey, and some even drive up from Venice and Naples.”
Residents Mary Allyn and Weta Cannon began volunteering at the Woman’s Exchange five years ago. The two were instrumental in establishing the Encore! & More Consignment Shop, which benefited the Women’s Resource Center, and when it closed its doors, they decided to focus their efforts on the Woman’s Exchange. Once a week, they volunteer together doing pricing and computer input. “We think the world of the Woman’s Exchange team,” Mary says. Weta adds, “It’s an amazing organization in terms of its financial and moral support of the arts in our community. They really do a wonderful job.”
In addition to volunteering, numerous Plymouth Harbor residents support the mission of the Woman’s Exchange by both consigning and donating. To learn more, you may visit their website at www.SarasotaWEX.com.