In a humble storefront on Potomac Avenue, Barbara Paul is busy minding the checkout counter and Lucille Descalzi is making price tags.
Others are sorting clothing and home goods that come into the store second-hand, but leave as something new to the customer who’s been searching for them.
These are the ladies behind Mt. Lebanon Trading Post, the ones who volunteer their time to keep the Dormont consignment shop alive. For them it’s not as much work as it is fun.
“I’ve made my best friends here,” said Emma Strouss of Carrick. The 87-year-old has volunteered at the store for more than 20 years. She said the store’s jovial atmosphere and number of friends she’s made among volunteers and customers is the reason she doesn’t give it up.
The store is nearly 75 years old, and it’s run entirely by a team of loyal volunteers, many of whom have worked there—unpaid—for 10, 20, and even 30 years.
It’s called the Mt. Lebanon Trading Post because it opened in Mt. Lebanon during World War II.
“It was opened during the war when people couldn’t get boots and things their kids needed all that easily,” said Paul, 77, a 15-year volunteer. “Things were really scarce then. Of course, at the time it did tremendous business because there was nothing else like it.”
The store moved from Mt. Lebanon to Dormont about 20 years ago. Trading Post President Gerry Barilla and a team of about 25 volunteers oversee the daily operations. All proceeds from the store are donated to local charities at the end of the year.
In 2011, Mt. Lebanon Trading Post made donations to Angel’s Place, Animal Friends, Guiding Eyes for the Blind, Little Sisters of the Poor and the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. They donate to different organizations each year.
Volunteer Jackie Parker of Carrick said the need for the store is still there, even more so in recent years. Descalzi agreed.
“I think it’s very much needed now, especially for people with families,” Descalzi said. “These past few years have been hard. We’re still here. We still have our customers and we love them.”
The ladies said more volunteer help is always needed. Kathy Pattak, 60, is one of the younger volunteers. Paul said age doesn’t hinder the energy and passion the ladies have for the store, but they’d love to see younger faces helping out.
“We need young blood around here,” she said with a laugh. “Our volunteers keep coming back, but we could use a few younger people to keep it going. We’re needed, and this is a good thing we don’t want to see go away.”
Mt. Lebanon Trading Post is open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It also is open on Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.