Fri, 03 May 2019 12:21:00 CDT — by: Luke Williamson (C'21)
Along University Avenue, a yellow house has stood for decades: the Hospitality Shop. The Hospitality Shop is a completely volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that raises money through selling donated items and clothes. It has provided the nearby hospital with thousands of dollars in funding for machinery and for advancing the education of nursing staff. The Hospitality Shop also provides scholarships to students in the tri-county area who plan to pursue medicine.
There are a few conditions that help the Hospitality Shop sell enough items to support these community development donations and programs. Johnny O’Neal, the Hospitality Shop manager, remarked that part of it is the building itself: “it’s an iconic house, really — the little yellow house.”
Another reason that the Hospitality Shop has grown more relevant to students on campus in recent years is because, as a thrift store, it declines to participate in a fast fashion business model. Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing that is made quickly, and thrown away even quicker. Between poor quality and passing trends, the rapidly-used and rapidly-discarded clothes from fast fashion stores like H&M, Forever21, and ASOS cause serious environmental and social issues related to a lack of workers rights, unfair wages, disruption in third-world local economies, and metric tons of textile waste sent to landfills every year.
Thrift stores like the Hospitality Shop help to repurpose textiles — to give used garments new homes.
And as for the other condition that supports the philanthropic efforts of the Hospitality Shop, it’s all about rent, according to Lauren Newman, Sustainability Coordinator. “Since its inception, the University has graciously let them have that house rent-free.” The Hospitality Shop has, for decades, donated all the money it would have otherwise spent toward paying rent fees.
“But,” began Newman, “as a result, of the rent-free agreement, maintenance has been left to the Hospitality Shop, and it’s costly to do regular upkeep on an old house.”
O’Neal echoed this. “Money simply wasn’t budgeted for it,” he remarked. And so, this year, after decades of use, the old yellow building was in desperate need of roof repairs. The University ended up offering a no-interest loan to fix the roof, but at a steep cost.
“It’s a historic building, and the repairs needed to happen. But now the Hospitality Shop has a $20,000 payment hanging over their heads — so I’m just trying to do whatever I can however I can,” said Newman.
Newman said that she learned about the need for roof repairs in January, and with O’Neal, got to work putting together a fundraising campaign. Enter: Raise the Roof.
Raise the Roof was the fundraising campaign that Newman put together with the support of the Green Fund and O'Neal. Including a bake sale, sticker sale, and garment sale at the Third Annual Upcycled Fashion Show, Raise the Roof has helped to fundraise $2,228.89, just through programming and events, not including the revenue that increased awareness has prompted. Newman even arranged for a locally-based printing company in Nashville, Life and Limb, to screen-print the Raise the Roof logo on garments from the Hospitality Shop as a way to upcycle them.
“What the campaign has really brought is the attention from the students. This campaign showed us that the community cares about us, that the OESS cares, and that the University cares,” said O’Neal. “We felt invisible, and now we’re visible.”
When asked about the future of the Hospitality Shop, given its pressing financial situation, O’Neal said “the house is the most important thing, I think. Fifty-two years they’ve been in this house. We were offered to move downtown whenever it’s remodeled, but as far as I know, we’re going to stay here to take care of the new roof.”
O’Neal also expressed that, although much of the revenue they raise this year will go toward paying for the roof repairs, the Hospitality Shop still wants to give out an award, if not multiple nominal ones, to a student from local schools, as they’ve done for many years now.
As O’Neal walked around the Hospitality Shop and tidied up displays, he reflected: “It’s a lot of work. I love it, but it’s a lot of work.”
You can support the Hospitality Shop financially by donating via their GoFundMe fundraising page, or by shopping in store. They are open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 9:30am-1:00pm.