Thrifting for a Cause at the Carry On Shop

Published in Alumni News - Alumni News 2023

Multiple people in their thrifted outfits.

“This is your little refuge.” It’s a phrase you’ll often hear Sandy Seward say when greeting visitors to the Carry On Shop. It’s a strangely apt description of the thrift shop, managed by the Women’s Board of the Johns Hopkins Hospital since 1927 and where people are just as likely to stop in for conversation as they are to shop.

Inside you will find an eclectic mix of gently used and vintage clothes, furniture, art, jewelry, and accessories. There is a vintage section organized by decade by a volunteer with a background in costume design. Furniture for sale is thoughtfully arranged to make a seating area where visitors can relax and enjoy a soft drink. Men’s blazers of all sizes and fabrics are found on a rack in the back, as is a bookshelf of vintage cookbooks and art prints. A new section of the shop includes new Johns Hopkins branded apparel and lab coats, all at lower prices than you can find elsewhere on campus. Designer jewelry is secured in the case under the register, including handbags designed by Alexandra Clancy, widow of military thriller author Tom Clancy. You will find a brooch for every day of the week in the costume jewelry section and a rack of luxurious vintage furs.

Much of the shop is dedicated to women’s designer clothing, with many items donated by members of the Women’s Board and their friends. They are always looking for donations and for creative ways to encourage people to give. Sandy and Pam Babij, another Women’s Board volunteer who shopped at the Carry On Shop as a nursing student at Hopkins, spoke with enthusiasm about a donation party that Pam is planning at her home in Guilford: “Your entry fee is your donation bag!” It's a family affair. Sandy’s husband, a veterinarian, will be loading the donations in the back of his ambulance to take back to the shop.

Sandy, a retired school counselor, began volunteering with the Women's Board five years ago after attending a sale at the Evergreen Museum and Library. Some of her friends were involved, and she was attracted to its mission to provide equipment, scholarships, and family-focused amenities for the hospital. She found that the Carry On Shop had the "most interesting people"—a mix of students, faculty, staff, alumni, patients, and locals. Sandy now co-chairs the shop and places an emphasis on people—she wants to get to know everyone who walks in and for everyone to feel welcome. Revenue from sales supports the mission of the Women's Board.

When shopping at the Carry On Shop, expect to be pampered by what Sandy describes as a “personal shopping experience.” The team will comb the racks to find the perfect outfit, accessories included, for whatever the occasion, be it a work meeting or fancy date. It’s fun and conversational, and shoppers may find themselves starring in their own fashion shoot. Needless to say, they are excellent salespeople. You will walk away having gleefully purchased at least one thing you didn’t know you needed.

It’s no surprise that most visitors end up becoming regulars, and many of them are compelled to contribute to the mission. The volunteers lure you in with kindness and charming conversation, discover your talents, and undoubtedly find ways to put those talents to use. A local jeweler provides repairs and appraisals at a steep discount. A research scientist from Lieber Institute for Brain Development Maltz Research Laboratories stopped in to browse and walked away having volunteered his band to play at an event. Regulars stop in just to chat about this or that.

It’s this sense of community that makes shopping here so special. The Carry On Shop offers what feels like a rare experience nowadays when so much of our shopping (and our life, really) takes place behind a computer screen. It’s easy to see how this small thrift shop is a refuge.

School of Medicine Alumni Relations is partnering with the Women's Board of Johns Hopkins Hospital to host the upcoming Sip and Shop at the Carry On Shop on March 7 at 6:00 pm. Browse the shop, mingle and enjoy complimentary refreshments. All are invited! You can register here: Sip & Shop at The Carry On Shop Tickets, Tue, Mar 7, 2023 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite