By Dana Delgado
BERTRAM — This little secret that was, is no longer.
The Bertram Library Thrift Store, a community mainstay nestled in the historic downtown district for decades, has finally been discovered for its unique boutique atmosphere by folks far beyond the city’s limits.
Patrons from Marble Falls, Burnet, Liberty Hill, Austin, Cedar Park and Georgetown are now making the pilgrimage to north Gabriel Street in Bertram. Even travelers from across the country catch a glimpse of the shop’s roadside sign along State Highway 29 and stop in for a look at the diverse holdings and invariably leave with some treasures at undeniably reasonable prices.
With a long tradition thanks to the help of many community members, the Bertram Library Thrift Store has taken its rightful place in the regional resale market as the little shop that is. This year marks its 30th anniversary.
The store carries a varied assortment of quality men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, shoes and accessories in addition to housewares, glassware, fine crystal, jewelry, books and linens. Also available are unique home decorating items, antiques and collectibles, holiday decorations, and bestselling books including a large selection of cookbooks. On occasion, items are donated that are absolute mysteries as to their purpose.
Donations arrive regularly and are always welcomed if in gently used condition. The shop prides itself in carrying only quality items, which has become its trademark in merchandising since its inception.
The store is operated by the Friends of the Bertram Library, a non-profit organization dedicated to serve and support the library. Friends’ members volunteer and raise funds to purchase all library materials, contribute to payment of the library’s utility bills, maintain the library building and sponsor special programs throughout the year. In addition to the Thrift Store, which is the major source of revenue for the library, funds are generated through memberships, fundraisers, donations and grants.
“The Joann Cole Mitte Memorial Library in Bertram would not function without the funds raised through the Thrift Store,” said Friends’ President Jane Almquist. “It has kept the library open even when funding has lessened from the City and the (Burnet) County.”
Almquist went on to say that volunteers, who almost exclusively staff the Thrift Store, are owed a world for thanks for all their contributions and loyalty to the library and the community.
“Our volunteers have dedicated many hours and hard work into making the store a success,” she said. “Over the years, volunteers have renovated two buildings, converted library furniture into display cases, salvaged used clothes racks, and created and maintain an attractive place for people to shop with the upmost of courtesy.”
Current Thrift Store volunteers, many of whom have been long-standing supporters, include Gayle Atkins, Doris Pearson, Pat Easley, Carol Allen, Laura Orr, Ellon Gustafson and Lilly Faye Hopkins. Also volunteering are Suzanne Strackbein, Rosie Hiers, Deanie Smith, Alta Bird, Guileen Odiorne, Pam Schlumpberger, Sharon Burgomy, Margaret Ibarra and Almquist.
“The Thrift Store has made a world of difference to our Library and has helped our community so much,” Almquist said.
The Bertram Library Thrift Shop was founded on August 1, 1983, by Cora Ellen and Leo Coffman to support a library that was very much in need of support. The shop was first housed in a small back room in a historic but very conditionally-challenged brick building that is now occupied by the Rock Shop.
It was damp, dark, and crowded but the store was generating funds for books and other needs the Bertram Free Library had. The Shop got by with minimal supplies and equipment and co-founder Cora Ellen even mended and washed clothes at home.
From those humble beginnings and after eight years, the shop was relocated in 1991 to a slightly larger, more prominent space in the adjacent building and facing the town’s main street. There, Ellon Gustafson, who continues to volunteer with the Thrift Shore, and Lamar Gustafson of Bertram took it upon themselves to renovate the new building space and found essential displays and clothes racks.
In 2011, when the Bertram Library moved into its beautiful new building, the Thrift Store moved to its current location, a larger space next door in the same historic building. This time, Don and Gayle Atkins handled the major task of refurbishing and remodeling the new location.
This current site once housed a leather and saddle shop, a grocery store and a beauty shop according to Ann Brock, Bertram Library Director for the past 25 years who also happened to be born and raised in Bertram. Founded on a dream and a promise to support the library three decades ago, the Thrift Store once a diamond in the rough has become a diamond and a lifesaver to the community for a myriad of reasons.
Donations are best received during the weekend and during working hours. The Thrift Store is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.