Nonprofit Crossing The Jordan’s Thrift Stores Expand, Go Online

By Robert Digitale The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A consignment shop in Santa Rosa is expanding into the online world. It's certainly great news for the owners Dana and Michael Bryant but also for the individuals who are helped by sales at "Crossing the Jordan." The second hand store was built largely by women who graduated from Crossing the Jordan's 18-month "Residential Life Transformation Program." The women spent months learning the intricacies of online retailing, including the photographing, tagging and warehousing of each item in a way that makes it easy for customers to find, buy and receive merchandise. So now you too can support the women ONLINE!

The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif. Crossing the Jordan, a Santa Rosa nonprofit that serves those seeking to overcome abuse, homelessness and addiction, has expanded its secondhand clothing business into the online world, going head to head with the likes of upscale recycled clothing companies Tradesy and thredUP.

"We compete now with the tech world of used clothing," said Dana Bryant, the group's executive director.

The faith-based nonprofit recently went live with an updated website, crossingthejordan.org, built by Santa Rosa web designer/IT business West County Net. The site's shopping section offers "almost new" fashions for men, women and children, with such brands as Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Ann Taylor and Banana Republic.

Crossing the Jordan this week also opened a "buy back center" at its Bluebell Drive headquarters. The center pays cash for a wide range of "gently used" fashions, with items valued over $50 accepted on a consignment basis.

Over the next six months the organization plans to open thrift stores in Petaluma, Healdsburg and Windsor. The three stores would be in addition to four existing retail outlets, one in Rohnert Park and three in Santa Rosa, including a gleaming white boutique at its headquarters, a spot Bryant describes as having a "New York vibe."

The new stores not only could provide more sales locations, but also attract more donations of upscale clothing items for the website.

"You need a bigger base to handle all this online stuff," Bryant said.

Other nonprofits sell clothing and a variety of secondhand goods online, sometimes using eBay. But Bryant sees her main competition as websites that exclusively sell trendy recycled clothing, handbags and accessories.

The local enterprise was built largely by women who graduated from Crossing the Jordan's residential program. They spent months learning the intricacies of online retailing, including the photographing, tagging and warehousing of each item in a way that makes it easy for customers to find, buy and receive merchandise.

"It's turning these women into entrepreneurs," Bryant said. "They get to see that they're creating jobs. They're able to give back."

Crossing the Jordan was founded in 2011 by Dana Bryant and husband Michael Bryant, the group's president. The organization offers an 18-month "Residential Life Transformation Program" for men and women at three facilities. This spring Crossing the Jordan was among nine winners of an American Red Cross Real Heroes Award.

The nonprofit employs 33 people. Along with its retail outlets, it runs a clothing export operation that ships garments to Africa and South America.

The export operation allows the nonprofit to accept a wide range of donated items.

For both the residential program and the clothing enterprise, Bryant said, a key lesson is that perseverance and hard work pay off.

"It lasts longer when you earn it," she said. "You own it."

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