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For Free: Baltimore Thrift Store Doesn't Take A Dime

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Baltimore Free Store co-founder Matt Warfield stands in front of thousands of donated items that are given away once a week.
Baltimore Free Store co-founder Matt Warfield stands in front of thousands of donated items that are given away once a week.

By Cathy Duchamp

There’s a new thrift store in Baltimore that doesn’t have any cash registers. Cathy Duchamp takes us to the Free Store, and explains how the operation pencils out.

Co-founder Matt Warfield says Baltimore Free Store was never about making money.

"It originated when I was in college and we would dumpster dive a lot and we found so many discarded items behind Office Depot, even the thrift stores, Salvation Army, Goodwill, they throw away so many of their donations," says Warfield.

Warfield and his friends started to give away the stuff they found. Fast forward a decade, to today. The Free Store is fueled by donations and hundreds of volunteers, who are sort of like Santa’s Elves. They come into the store once a week and stock the shelves. On Saturdays the doors open and the stuff disappears. It’s about helping people who don’t have much. But Warfield says the real goal of the Free Store is to break down barriers that separate people by race and class.

"Baltimore City is a very fine example. People are afraid of this city, they’re afraid of going in certain parts of the city. We even got complaints about where we opened our storefront," he says.

Warfield’s response:Southwest Baltimore is the perfect neighborhood to come to, to debunk stereotypes.

"This is a safe neighborhood. Hollins Market is nearby. Union Square is nearby. There are nice people who live here," he says.

It’ll be years before Warfield sees if his strategy works. In the short term, he needs more stuff, to give away for free.

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