By Dave Jolivet
FALL RIVER — Each week more signs of normalcy appear in all aspects of life. Some are a welcome to relief to those for whom the pandemic was a greater burden than most.
While the virus itself was a grave danger for many for a time, the fallout from the lock-downs and business closures affected those who were already down and out.
On Friday, June 17, the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store in Fall River reopened after a two-year absence, to the delight of many in the neighborhood. The store has been a Pleasant Street staple for more than 50 years.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit in early 2020, Len Nicolan was the manager of the shop at 1799 Pleasant Street in Fall River. Len was in his second stint as manager, having once retired but taking on the role when his son, Michael, who had run the business for 10 years, passed away from an aggressive brain tumor.
During the pandemic, the elder Nicolan was very cautious about reopening.
Cyndy Michaud, a parishioner at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet and who volunteered at the store for eight years told The Anchor, “When the pandemic hit, we didn’t know if the virus was remaining in clothing and furniture, so we closed, although the furniture store on County Street in Fall River remained open on Saturdays.
“We eventually learned the clothing was safe, so we cleanly packed everything and simply waited for the time that we could reopen.”
Nicolan was still wary about reopening early this year. He retired as manager. “When Len retired, the board named Brian McNally the new manager and I was named the assistant manager,” Michaud said. “We had several board meetings and in April we decided it was time for the store to reopen, and efforts began immediately to prepare the building for business again.”
The staff and volunteers have been working diligently preparing the store and unpacking the goods to be sold. McNally, a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Swansea, was handling all of the furniture repairs when he was named manager.
With such a high profile on Pleasant Street, it wasn’t difficult for area residents to see the business coming back to life. “People were looking into the windows and saw things were happening to provide good quality clothing and furniture at a very good price,” Michaud told The Anchor. “The neighbors were very glad to see it reopening and for many, it was much needed.
“We cleaned and decorated the large glass panes, which brought more excitement to the area.”
Because all of the wares were neatly packed away, there was no shortage of goods for the reopening.
The Pleasant Street store will now open and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the furniture location at 392 County Street will continue to open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“The furniture is very good,” added Michaud. “An area furniture store generously donates pieces that may have slight cosmetic imperfections, but they’re basically new. And the donations we receive are good quality and have folks to repair them. If they are not of good quality, we don’t accept them.
The Pleasant Street store will be operated by McNally and Michaud with the help of a handful of volunteers from St. Bernard’s Parish.
The County Street furniture store is still managed by Arthur Francoeur, a 20-year volunteer, who once repaired the furniture.
The stores were originally opened by the then Notre Dame de Lourdes Parish in the Flint section of Fall River. After many years, the store was handed over to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and remained a successful venture up until the pandemic.
Michaud told The Anchor that people who wish to donate clothing or furniture to the store can do so by calling 508-954-7254.