The Free Store Concept
Updated: Jul 22
Imagine a store where all the items on the shelves were free—where you could get that toaster you’ve been needing, or a basketball for your child, or a business suit for re-entry into the job world post pandemic, all without handing over a dime. This is the concept of a free store, which provides a unique way for people to responsibly donate things they no longer need by putting them into the hands of others who can use them, free of charge, in a way that also builds community. Some would say that’s the perfect match!
Fanciness Not Necessary
Free stores are popping up all around the world. From a box on a street corner where people can leave items they no longer want, open-air markets, to actual brick and mortar stores, these helpful depots appear in many creative forms. Free stores don’t need fancy spaces—and some are quite creative! The free store in Portland, OR, operates out of a painted school bus in the southeast quadrant of the city.
Waste Less, Save More
The free-store movement began in the United States in 1960s San Francisco and today there are free stores scattered throughout the US. Many European countries have thriving free stores as well, and they all share a common philosophy: that there are more than enough goods to go around; scarcity should not be an issue.
The purpose of a free store is for everyone to rethink their shopping habits, spending habits, and general addiction to 'newer-bigger-better'
A Service To The Community
Free store operators across the country have noted that this model works well; people don’t seem to greedily take everything they can get their hands on. Instead, they tend to walk away with a handful of items that they truly need, leaving the rest for others. Perhaps that’s due to an overall mindfulness that free stores can helpful to more than the low income demographic.
According to a 2015 article in Journal of American Studies, “It is a global phenomenon that grandparents act as substitute parents in cases where their children as biological parents fail to take care of their own for various reasons.” “The coronavirus recession has sparked unprecedented job losses and will probably drive U.S. poverty rates to five-decade highs”, according to new projections from Columbia University researchers.
Give It Away, Give It Away Now
A free store can bring community members together in a unique way, while giving unwanted items a second life. Consider what you may have to offer—the rewards may surprise you.