The Wayne Woman’s Exchange, the Junior League

63_image01Looking down the vista of the years ahead, not one among that small group of ambitious women who started the Woman’s Exchange in Wayne in 1931 could have visualized the beautiful shop and tea room at 185 East Lancaster avenue as it looks today.

At that time, only some 50 consignors brought their handicraft to the small and unpretentious shop on Audubon avenue, since renamed South Wayne avenue. Now there are more than 300 consignors, who bring what they make to an Exchange that by 1940 had reached fifth place in gross sales among the 35 member organizations of the Federation of Woman’s Exchanges in the entire United States.

In May, 1950, this Federation held its annual meeting in Wayne, with the local group serving as host, and with delegates from as far away as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Richmond, New Haven, New York, Scarsdale and Stamford.

Almost phenomenal as the growth of the Wayne Woman’s Exchange seems, it was closely connected with national economic conditions in the early 1930’s. In the period of a national depression, heads of families were losing jobs, family savings were rapidly used up, with some disappearing overnight with the closing of banks. What the women in these families could earn, even in a small way, was all that kept many from actual need.

The Wayne Exchange, like many similar organizations throughout the country, helped these women to help themselves by providing an outlet for their products. Some sewed, others knitted, while still others baked. There were ways to earn a bit of money that some had never dreamed of until necessity called forth talents to which their owners had given little heed previously. Off to an auspicious beginning in the 1930’s the success of the Exchange continued on into the more prosperous years that followed. Then came the war with its various shortages, among them that of sugar. While the ordinary housewife could obtain perhaps barely enough of that commodity to meet her family’s everyday needs, the Exchange was able to obtain it in larger quantities for the use of its consignors. And while the supply of cakes and cookies never met the demand for them, nevertheless the situation was somewhat relieved.

The charming interior of the Exchange is shown in the picture illustrating this week’s column. On every side are showcases, full to overflowing with the handiwork of more than 300 consignors. Hand knitted afghans, bootees, sweaters and caps for the youngest member of the family, smocked dresses and pinafores, and for little brothers, suits, hand knitted sweaters and socks – all are of unusual design and painstakingly made. For older sisters and their mothers there is a charming line of handmade sweaters, as well as skirts and blouses.

Clothes form but one part of an extensive stock of articles. To name but a few of the hundreds of these, there are lamp shades, hooked rugs, knitting bags, crocheted mats, aprons of all descriptions, children’s toys, handmade jewelry, pincushions, lingerie cases, etc. Hand monogramming is done on order, dolls are dressed, baby bassinettes are trimmed, rugs mended, and men’s shirt collars turned.

As to food, the long list includes casseroles, sandwiches, cutlets of all kinds, chicken pies, roast turkey, baked ham, etc. There are cakes of all kinds, including special birthday ones, and cookies, too. Many of these items are served in the charming small tea room on the second floor, as well as being sold over the counter.

The Exchange is a non-profit organization, run entirely for the benefit of women who need to add to their incomes, many of them in the older age group. For some of them this additional income means the chance to contribute to their church work or to favorite charities. It means, too, family gifts that could perhaps otherwise not be afforded. And best of all, there is the opportunity to make use of their talents.

Mrs. Edward H. York, Jr., is the present chairman of the exchange, with Mrs. Robert A. Apple as her vice-chairman. Mrs. DeWitt C. Clement serves as executive secretary and manager, with Mrs. Arthur C. Sherman to assist her. Mrs. William T. Grugan is secretary and Miss Marguerite Johnson, assistant secretary. Miss Elizabeth Adams manages the Tea Room, with Mrs. Ann Friel as her assistant. Since the budget does not permit a large paid staff, there is need for many volunteers. Among those who give generously of their time are a number of Junior League members, earning their credits for the League by working in three-hour shifts in the various departments of an enterprise that, for the last 20 years, has meant much to many people.

The Alley Door

As they make their way to “The Alley Door”, that newest of the Neighborhoord League Shops, visitors and customers have a nostalgic feeling of half-remembered other small shops in Old World settings. With its fresh paint and shining windows, this tiny place has an air of quaintness in its picturesque setting at the end of the alleyway running to the east of 191 East Lancaster avenue.

62-image01Hours of hard work created this charming little shop out of a once dingy basement room. Exterior brick walls have been painted gray with old rose trim. On the wall at the top of the two steps that lead downward to the door itself, is an attractive, oval-shaped wooden sign, advertising the fact that this is “The Alley Door”, and that “clothing, furniture and bric-a-brac” are sold there. Several small wooden casks, also painted in old rose and planted with trailing ivy, add a touch of freshness.

In the well-lighted room which constitutes the interior of the shop, vases of pussy willows set a springtime note. Walls are in a soft beige tone which make a pleasant background for several cabinets of various kinds. Behind the glass door of one are pieces of costume jewelry. Other cabinets and shelves hold such things as candlesticks, plates, vases, lamp shades, bric-a-brac and even a radio, and these articles are but a forerunner of what will come in from time to time.

Just to the right of the door as one enters is an alcove, containing racks well stocked with dresses of various sizes and kinds. Also on display are coats, sports jackets, blouses, shoes and other articles of wearing apparel. And these clothes, too, are only the beginning of large stocks that will be replenished day by day by interested patrons of this new shop.

“Come in with a gift – go out with a bargain” is the slogan for The Alley Door, an invitation for everyone to participate, both in donating and in buying. For, unlike its sister shops, The Commission Shop, The Children’s Shop and The Neighborhood League Shop, which sell on consignment, The Alley Door accepts for sale only such articles as are donated to it. This follows the original plan of the first small Neighborhood League Shop, established on North Wayne avenue 26 years ago. Like its sister shops, all profits go to the work of the Neighborhood League in the maintenance of the community services of that organization.

An informal “open house” was given at The Alley Door on Tuesday of last week for board members and the staffs of the other shops, and on Tuesday of this week, the Shop opened to the public for business. Hours are from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M., Monday through Friday of each week, with volunteer saleswomen on duty. Donations are greatly appreciated by those in charge. Pick-up service for donations will be provided when needed if a telephone call is made to Wayne 0312.

Remember to “come in with a gift and go out with a bargain.”

Neighborhood League Shops and tea room, Children’s Shop on Louella Court

In spite of the fact that it was in the midst of the depression in the early 1930’s that the Neighborhood League Shop and the Woman’s Exchange moved into their present quarters on East Lancaster avenue, both shops flourished from the beginning. Then came the third selling venture, the Commission Shop, started because of the depression. With quarters located on the second floor just over the Neighborhood League Shop, this new shop soon became an integral part of the group. All worked toward the common goal of raising funds for the Neighborhood League, to carry on its work at a time when demands upon it were steadily increasing.

The inspiration for the Commission Shop came originally from the idea that it could be operated to help many people, and in so doing also be of financial aid in the work of the Neighborhood League itself. Many people might be willing to sell good clothing for which they had no immediate use, while others might be eager to buy these very things if they were moderately priced.

From the beginning, trade in the shop was brisk, quality of clothing sold on commission was good, and the prices were reasonable. Customers were never lacking.

Less than ten years after the start of the Commission Shop, a tea room was opened above the Woman’s Exchange, where attractive luncheons, at moderate price, are served daily. This venture, like those that preceded it, has proved more than successful.

61_image01Then, in May 1946, the fifth project got under way, with the opening of the Children’s Shop on Louella Drive. Like the other shops, it has grown steadily and prospered greatly. In the beginning it was an outlet for the congestion in the Commission Shop, but has now become a well-established unit in its own right, with a particular appeal all its own. Sizes range from the tiniest of infants’ wear up to clothes for the 12-year-old boy or girl. From there on, the Commission Shop takes over.

Those who place their clothing to be sold on commission in these two shops come mostly from the Philadelphia area, many of course from the immediate Main Line section, some few even from out of the state. Customers in the Children’s Shop are mostly mothers of families on the lookout for good clothing at bargain prices, and among the most consistent buyers are fond grandmothers with even better trained eyes for good buys. One of the special services of this shop is the maintenance of charts, giving ages and sizes of children in the various families who are customers of the shop.

No one walking along the west side of Louella Drive can fail to notice the attractive window displays in the Children’s shop. One day there may be a gay little party dress as pretty and dainty as if it had never been worn. And in the other corner perhaps a fur collared winter coat of excellent quality, while in between there are shoes and slippers that have scarcely been worn. Another day there may be corduroy overalls and T-shirts, or garments and small warm blankets for the newcomer.

Interestingly enough, much good clothing is bought in both the Commission shop and the Children’s Shop for shipment outside of the United States. Some has gone as far as Japan and Africa; there have been shipments to England and Europe, and to our neighbors in South America. Following major catastrophes in our own country,clothing for both adults and children has been purchased by local customers for shipment to relatives and friends in these areas.

It is impossible to estimate the widespread benefits that have come from the establishment of all the Neighborhood League shops from that day just 26 years ago, when the first small one was started in the little shop on North Wayne avenue, down to the present. “The Alley Door”, which ls about to open, will have purposes and objectives different from those of the shops that have opened previously.

(To be continued)

Neighborhood League Shop and Woman’s Exchange, The Alley Door, Yorke Apothecary

An unusual sort of an advertisement made its appearance on page eight of last week’s “Suburban” under the heading of “History Repeats Itself.” The Board of Managers of the Neighborhood League Shops announced the coming opening of “The Alley Door”, the fifth shop in its “chain”, on Tuesday, March 9.

It was exactly 28 years ago that “The Suburban” carried a story describing a “new kind of store.” And it, too, had its opening on a Tuesday, March 9. This ‘new kind of store”, the first small Neighborhood League Shop, was located in the DiFerdinando building on North Wayne avenue.

At an organization meeting held previous to the announcement, Mrs. F.H. Diament had been chosen president of the new undertaking; Mrs. E.H. Molthan, vice-president, and Mrs. H.L. Seiple, secretary and treasurer. Mrs. A.H. O’Neal, who later succeeded Mrs. Diament in the presidency, was also instrumental in starting the enterprise that has proven so successful during the years following its inception.

Those who followed Mrs. Diament and Mrs. O’Neal have been Mrs. Molthan, Mrs. Seaton Schroeder, Mrs. C.J. Brooke Young, Jr., Mrs. E. Mortimer Newlin and Mrs. D.L. Trouant, present incumbent. Originators of the plan for this newest shop are Mrs. F. Warren Marshall, and Mrs. A.V. Purinton.

60_image01The “newest shop in Wayne” in 1926 had “almost everything imaginable” on sale when it opened its doors on March 9. Even before it was a shop, the Neighborhood League headquarters had accumulated donations from its well wishers for its work among the needy in this vicinity. Now, however, there was to be a change in the manner of this distribution.

To those who could not afford to pay anything for clothing and household articles the shop would gladly turn over, through the Neighborhood League, anything that would fill their needs. But there were others, more financially fortunate, “who were not in the least looking for charity, who had the money, though not very much money to be sure, to buy the baby new leggings, or a sturdy pair of shoes for sister.” And to such families as these, the League Shop was welcome, with its low prices. While the primary purpose of the new shop was not to make profit, it bolstered the self respect of those who wanted to pay their own way.

Soon this first small shop on North Wayne avenue needed a paid worker to head the volunteers who were busily selling the constantly increasing stock of household articles, furniture, bric-a-brac and clothing donated by friends of the Neighborhood League. Shop funds were now making possible monthly contributions to the Neighborhood League, and even after the purchase of an automobile for the use of the League nurses, there was still money left in the bank.

After discussing their plan with the director of the Neighborhood League, the shop managers decided on still another venture. This would be in the way of a Woman’s Exchange. Here those who needed to augment their incomes and who could not go outside their homes to do so, would be given the opportunity to sell what they could make at home. In October, 1931, a second shop was rented, this one on Audubon avenue, in the store now occupied by the Yorke Pharmacy. With some 50 consignors bringing in their products, this new venture was an immediate success.

It was not long before those in charge realized that the combined rent of their two separate shops was high, in proportion to the returns of them. A search was instituted for more reasonable, as well as more suitable locations for the shop, and in 1932 the Woman’s Exchange moved into its present quarters at 185 East Lancaster avenue, with the Neighborhood League shop as its immediate neighbor at 191 West Lancaster avenue.

The story of the Commission Shop and the Children’s Shop will be told next week, beginning with the Commission Shop, which came into existence because of the depression.

(Note: The series of illustrated articles on the Wayne Estate houses will be resumed later.)