Heart & soul put into thrift store
After more than 20 years of running the Coventry Cross Thrift Store in Gardnerville, Ed Hoppe retires Jan. 1, 2004.
Hoppe, 82, has volunteered his time for the past 23 years to operate the thrift store for Coventry Cross Episcopal Church. Because he couldn’t find someone in his congregation to take over, the thrift store changes hands to the Carson Valley United Methodist Church in Gardnerville after the New Year.
“Everybody from my church is either my age or from a young family,” Hoppe said. “I figured after 23 years, I’ve done my duty. I am not getting any younger and I am glad the church is taking over.”
It is a bittersweet end for Hoppe that is frequently called “Grandpa” by the numerous generations of volunteers that have helped Hoppe at the store.
Kellie Swan started volunteering with her mom Georgia Cummins when she was 7-years-old. She brings her two young daughters, Carissa and Kylie to help out.
“It makes me so sad, (that Hoppe is retiring),” Swan said. “Ed is a very easy-going, trusting and lovable man. The thrift store has really helped my family. This is where we get all our clothes. We know a lot of customers who will miss him because they have become friends with Ed as well.”
Debora Rogers-MacCabe has volunteered at the store for 10 years.
“They wouldn’t find anybody with his dedication,” she said of Hoppe. “He is irreplaceable. I am sad. He has always made me feel appreciated. This has been great for me. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been wonderful, a spiritual thing and I am glad the community outreach will continue.”
Hoppe was born in Amtramick, Mich. and moved to Buffalo, N.Y. when he was 6-years-old. He was raised in upstate New York and attended public schools there. After high school, Hoppe said he “goofed around” a bit until he joined the U.S. Marine Corps at a 19-year-old. He spent four years in the Marines and saw action at Pearl Harbor.
“I am a Pearl Harbor survivor,” Hoppe said. “I remember at the time of the bombing (Dec. 7, 1941), I was on Ford Island, shooting guns at Jap airplanes. From there I went up into the mountains and shot some more.”
Once a year, Hoppe’s old battalion meets for a reunion. They meet next year in Ogden, Utah.
“But the battalion is getting smaller and smaller,” he said of his battle buddies who are past their 80s.
After the Marine Corps, Hoppe went to work for the U.S. Navy at its Naval Supply Center in Oakland, Calif., until he retired. He and wife, Jay, moved to Carson Valley after his retirement.
“When my kids were young, we used to camp at Camp Richardson (at Lake Tahoe),” Hoppe said. “We would drive around and around and fell in love with the area.”
The Hoppe’s have three sons, Bruce, who lives in Martinez, Calif.; Scott of South Lake Tahoe, and Jeff of Virginia City. They have two granddaughters, one grandson and one great granddaughter.
Hoppe replaced Sonia DeHart, longtime Genoa resident who died this year, at the thrift store more than 20 years ago at the request of his church priest. Originally, the thrift store was on Highway 395, across from the J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room. After a fire there less than 10 years ago, it was moved to Service Drive for three years, and had been at its present location off Industrial Way for the past two years. Hoppe said Roy and Vivian Partridge helped start the original store.
Hoppe said the main purpose of the thrift store has been community outreach through donations to the City of Refuge for pregnant teens and paying for medicines and motels for people in need. He said the money invested from church congregation donations will keep the thrift store up and operating for some time.
“That is part of the sad thing about this,” he said. “This is a good place. I will miss the people.”
Every year, Hoppe celebrates the volunteers by buying them a holiday dinner and a gift of chocolates.
“Everybody is strictly volunteer,” Hoppe said. “Nobody gets paid and that includes me.”
When Hoppe couldn’t be at the store, Brenda Cornforth, covered for him.
“Whenever I’d take off on vacations, she kept the store going,” Hoppe said. “And anytime I wanted time off, she was my right-hand (wo)man.”
Hoppe never dreamed he would be at the thrift store for more than 20 years.
“I never did anything like this. I never went into a thrift store. … I never had any experience. But I had a lot of great people working for me,” he said.
“I thank Jay for letting me come down here,” he said. “I think she will be glad to have me home on weekends for a change.”
– Regina Purcell can be reached at email@example.com or (775) 782-5121, ext. 211.