A basket of beautiful shells. $10.
A cute child’s lamp, clock with a hippo’s face keeping time. $10
A darling wooden jewelry box built like a small chest. $8.
It’s just a snapshot of Sue Thomas’s new shop at 5312 Holmes Blvd. in the north corner of the Anna Maria Art League building.
Giving Back is its name, apropos of the shop’s purpose.
All proceeds go to charity.
“A great example of pooling resources to meet the needs of the community,” said Jim Comkowycz, a Manasota Operation Troop Support volunteer.
Thomas and her husband, Richard, an Anna Maria Island artist, have been island residents since 1981 and have donated to various worthy causes over the years.
This time they wanted to do it differently and turned his old studio, originally a doctor’s office, into a shop filled with eclectic gifts.
They own the building, so there is no rent.
No salary, either.
“We wanted to get more involved instead of just writing checks,” said Sue Thomas, 50. “Our son (Stephen) leaves for college in August, so I thought this would be a fun project. It’s right for me.
“It’s a way for people to come in, buy upscale items at good prices. I sell to make a little for charity, but not out-price myself. They know they’re getting something and their money is going to a charitable cause.”
Two different Haiti-related charities and the Susan G. Komen Foundation were February’s beneficiaries of $1,400 in shop sales.
This month’s recipients are Manatee High School’s Renaissance program, the island’s Community Center and Manatee Operation Troop Support, which the couple has helped before.
“They always seem to be there just at the right time,” said Comkowycz, a King Middle School educator. “When it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to fund a project, they’ve come through.”
Thomas’s shop has a bit of everything.
There’s her pottery and some of her husband’s watercolors, but much more.
Handmade children’s pillows.
Funky footwear, including one tagged thusly:
“These are not shoes; they’re sandals.”
There’s a bookcase with light reading, think popular authors Nora Roberts and Danielle Steele, next to not-so-light reading like Homer’s “Iliad.”
Laminated bookmarks containing dried leaves.
Small refurbished tables — once brown, now lively pastels.
Chapstick and sunscreen.
“People wouldn’t come in here just for that, but I’ve sold a ton because if they’re interested they look at every little spot,” Thomas said.
She collects many items from estate sales and consignment shops.
“I hunt every morning for a couple of hours before I open up,” Thomas said.
Her husband marvels at her inspiration and creativity.
“She’s got a quirky eye for things that are different enough, yet people want to buy,” said Richard Thomas, 51, from his downtown St. Petersburg studio.
One of those items is a plate with a Norman Rockwell painting.
Thomas told his wife it may be worth a lot more than the $10 she’s selling it for.
“I said, if somebody’s getting a great deal, then good,” she said. “It all goes to charity.”
Joyce Karp, director of the Anna Maria Island Art League, is a longtime acquaintance of the Thomases and enjoys dropping into Giving Back next door to see what strikes her fancy.
“You not only can go in there and find wonderful second-hand items, but you can find some real quality art,” she said. “That’s pretty impressive. The prices are extremely reasonable. The items are just waiting to walk out of there. They’re really priced to sell. It’s obvious her goal is to contribute to good causes.
“It suits Susan to a T.”
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Please include a phone number for verification.