BELFAST — A new nonprofit store filled with antiques and vintage collectibles opened over the summer to provide financial support to the students and teachers of Regional School Unit 71, the school district serving Belfast, Belmont, Morrill, Searsmont and Swanville.
Old School, located on High Street in Belfast, sells treasures, including comic books, trading cards, action figures, sports memorabilia, clothes, books and jewelry, among other items.
When opening its doors in June, the store was stocked with items from the homes of Josh Solebello and Regina Quattrucci, who run the store each day as volunteers following their shifts at their full-time jobs as they do not have the budget for a paid staff.
“We found it much easier to let things go knowing that it would be enjoyed by others who shared our fondness, and that the resulting monies would benefit local educators and children,” said Solebello. “As we continue to grow, hear more about what customers want and assess what moves quickly, we work hard to acquire inventory at very reasonable rates from all around Maine so that we can pass along joy as well as affordability.”
As more people learn of the business, more items are being donated to the store, an which are either sold within the store or presented to other local organizations that use the items to assist community members in need.
The concept of the store came rather organically for Quattrucci and Solebello. A few years ago, the couple, who have a history of small-scale fundraising for educational needs, attended auctions and sifted through antique and vintage stores to bestow their loved ones with holiday gifts that would encourage fond memories.
“In the months that followed, and looking around at our own abundance of ‘things,’ we began dreaming of the multitude of potential good we could bring to our own community,” said Solebello. “Providing a place with affordable offerings, happy memories and opportunities for young people all while serving the needs of educators and others who might benefit from additional funding.”
Both Quattrucci and Solebello are graduates of Belfast Area High School and their four children are enrolled in RSU 71 schools. With their strong ties to the Belfast community, they had no trouble deciding the fruits of their labor should benefit the students of RSU 71.
Since opening in June, the store has been able to provide more than $1,000 in direct financial support for local students and teachers through sponsoring students participating in fee-based after-school programs, purchasing classroom supplies and providing free clothing and supplies to students.
“We’ve also helped so many folks locally in terms of clothing, housewares and special requests, and all of that is exactly why we are so driven in this venture,” said Solbello. “The monumental reward and warmth that comes from knowing and seeing what differences you can make in the lives of fellow community members.”
On top of the monetary assistance provided by Quattrucci and Solebello, the couple allows students to use their store’s community room as a weekly gathering place for Dungeons and Dragons matches, while also hosting dinners for the high school’s boys soccer team.
In December, the store hosted a shopping event the Saturday before Christmas that allowed students to purchase thoughtful gifts for family for only one quarter per item, with free gift wrapping available.
All what Quattrucci and Solebello can provide to the community is thanks to the support of the community.
“Old School’s success is directly tied to the year-round patronage and support of our community,” said Solebello. “Our goal has been for Old School to be much more than just a mechanism to raise money in support of financial needs in the community, but even more so an opportunity to enrich the lives of those living here by enabling people to connect (and reconnect) with fond childhood memories and experiences that led helped shape who we are as a community today.”
The store is also providing lessons for its younger patrons, much to the appreciation of their parents.
“We repeatedly hear variations of one of my favorites which is a gratitude for ‘taking the time to help my son find something he enjoyed and the courage to barter for the first time,’” said Solebello. “We enjoy the store being a mechanism to help young people test new skills, and parents enjoy watching their little ones explore that confidence.”
This year, the goal for the store is to provide memorable experiences, make customers feel valued and appreciated and use profits to better the lives of the community.
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.