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A snazzy window display welcomes shoppers to Republic of Thrift, where “Thriftina” the mannequin sports a curly wig and a shimmering sapphire gown, a sprinkling of confetti and daisies at her feet. Nearby are two champagne glasses and a bottle of bubbly.

It’s not just another clever window installation at the Fetters Hot Springs thrift store. The display celebrates five successful years as a fundraising venue for the public schools in Sonoma Valley.

The vignette pays tribute to those who donate merchandise and shop at the store, helping raise more than $150,000 to date for the Sonoma Valley Unified School District’s 11 campuses.

The Highway 12 shop opened in February 2012 with crossed fingers, an evolving business plan and the collective enthusiasm of two founding partners who can’t quite agree which one came up with the idea to help schools by selling secondhand goods.

“One of us said it,” noted Jeannette Tomany, 51, who runs Republic of Thrift with her sister, Michelle Mammini, 49.

Known for its quirky window displays, affordable prices and variety of goods, Republic of Thrift offers 2,700 feet of retail space. Clothing and accessories are a mainstay, with a revolving cache of household goods, decorative items, toys, books, vintage finds and everything from school and craft supplies to tools, training wheels and Shirley Temple movies (a set of three classics for $1.50).

Everything is well organized and priced to move quickly, with 100 percent of the net profits supporting public education in the valley. Shirts, for example, sell for $4, baby clothes are $1, most stuffed animals are 25 cents, hardcover books are 50 cents, a vintage Kentucky bourbon whiskey decanter of a circus elephant was priced at $5, a collectible Pez candy dispenser was a quarter, and two satin First Holy Communion girls’ dresses with fancy appliqués and beading were each marked at $15.

There isn’t space or muscle enough for much furniture; the sisters prefer handling lighter-weight merchandise. Smaller furniture items appear on occasion, but treasure hunters know to visit frequently for specialty items, old-time treasures or designer wear.

Aside from furniture, “We have everything; I’d say everything,” Mammini said. “It’s the thrill of the hunt. People like something vintage or unique and different. A lot of people like to hunt.”

The sisters enjoy meeting an eclectic group of shoppers, from nearby Springs-area residents to tourists searching for something special.

They carry swimsuits year-round to assist the many visitors staying at a nearby luxury hotel and spa who forget to pack their trunks or suits for the hotel’s pools.

Santa Rosa residents Maribel and Arturo Sanchez stopped by on a recent afternoon to shop for clothing, after saving for an upcoming vacation to Mazatlán, Mexico.

The couple downsized and reduced their work hours after the birth of their 10-month-old twin sons, preferring to spend more time at home with their babies.

Republic of Thrift helps the couple shop within their reduced budget; Maribel is a registered nurse who works per diem and her husband is an EKG technician with part-time hours.

“It’s a great place. Amazing,” Maribel Sanchez said. “The prices are great.”

Like the Church Mouse, a longtime Sonoma Valley thrift store with two locations that aids a local parochial school, Republic of Thrift helps students, teachers and school staff.

Mammini and Tomany pondered how best to support local schools, where their sons are students. Sean Tomany, 12, attends Sonoma Charter School and Mammini’s sons, Jack Savage, 12, and Maxwell Savage, 10, go to Dunbar Elementary School in Glen Ellen.

Rather than split percentages based on school enrollment, the sisters decided to share funds evenly and write checks to the parent-teacher organizations at each campus. Funds are dispersed three times per year, with recipients free to utilize donations as they wish.

Monies have gone toward field trips, classroom projects, teacher mini grants, student recognition programs and various special needs.

Will Deeths, principal at Altimira Middle School, said there’s a consensus among principals in the valley: “We could not do what we do without the support of Republic of Thrift. They’re always willing to help in every single way they can.”

That assistance, Deeths said, includes loaning props and costumes for school plays, dances and fundraisers and providing teacher discounts.

“They’re so passionate about supporting our schools,” he said.

Tomany and Mammini enjoy working together, as they did as kids helping on their family farm in San Martin near Gilroy. But, they say, the real job reward is in supporting education and encouraging the concept of reuse. They are grateful to those who drop off goods to support their mission — and to a small group of loyal volunteers who lend a hand whenever they can.

Tomany and Mammini have two part-time and two full-time employees, with the doors open every day but major holidays and the day following special sales. Republic of Thrift hosts two half-off sales (for their anniversary and back-to-school time) as well as 30 percent discount days the first weekend of every month.

They try to sell just about everything that’s donated.

“We really try to save everything. That’s our motto and what makes us different,” Tomany said.

Ephemera, such as old advertisements, goes onto the shelves rather than into the garbage; the sisters have discovered there’s an interest in almost anything vintage.

They initially worked 70-hour weeks to get the business established. Mammini moved to Sonoma Valley from Lodi to help open the store. Tomany, already living in the valley, spent the first year working without a salary to ensure Republic of Thrift’s success.

Within a few months, they split profits evenly among the district’s high school, alternative high school, two middle schools, two charter schools and five elementary schools. In all, they donated more than $40,000 their first year, including a check to the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, which they also support.

“It was slow and painful (at first). We had a lot of chaos in our life here,” Tomany said.

Sixteen months after opening, and with guidance and a financial contribution from local business leaders and philanthropists Gary and Marcia Nelson to help with legal fees, Republic of Thrift became an official nonprofit.

It’s been a win-win-win-win adventure from the start: a successful enterprise for the sisters, support for the schools, affordable clothing and merchandise for the community and a model of recycle-reuse-repurpose.

They’ve recently seen an increase in donations and sales, after enduring two years of major roadway improvements along Highway 12 that at times limited access to the store.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there, plenty for all the (secondhand) stores in Sonoma,” Tomany said “We’re lucky we live in an area with so much great stuff. For a little town, we have a lot going on.”

Republic of Thrift, at 17496 Highway 12, Fetters Hot Springs, is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Donations are taken until 4 p.m. Friday through Monday.

For more information, call 707-933-9850 or visit republicofthrift.com or facebook.com/RepublicofThrift.

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.

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