The Friends’ Library Store

The Friends’ Library Store

By John Smyntek

Offered for your consideration – some questions from the imaginary Kollege of Konsumer Knowledge, School of Savvy Shopping.

Friends' Library Store at the Rochester Hills Public Library - photo by Michael Dwyer

Friends’ Library Store at the Rochester Hills Public Library – photo by Michael Dwyer

Where in the City of Rochester can you buy attractive jewelry crafted from Michigan’s legendary Petoskey stones and of copper that pays homage to the state’s long mining heritage?

Where can you procure a wide array of Michigan-related goods – edible, ornamental and pragmatic?

How about a one-stop shop for a decorative lamp, maybe a greeting card and perhaps some ceramics and pottery from Detroit’s famed Pewabic Pottery Works?

Stumped? The answer is simple—and all encompassing. All the solutions are at The Friends’ Library Store, located just off the front entrance of the Rochester Hills Public Library at 500 Olde Towne Road in downtown Rochester. And better yet, the store’s proceeds are a large source of income for its sponsor, the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library, a group of over 800 volunteers who raise money for various library needs and wants.

The store isn’t exactly a secret but because it’s in the library, it might not be on the average shopper’s stop-in list. But it probably should be. Volunteer manager Darlene Tomczyk notes it has been in existence since the library moved to its current building in 1992. Tomczyk’s been involved in the store since 1997. She said it provides an outlet for her “artistic and merchandising talents. For 20 years I was a buyer for Jacobson’s department stores for home décor.”

Her trained eye keeps the store stocked with a wide array of attractive Michigan oriented books, mugs and other native sundries. And along with store treasurer Jac Caldwell and volunteer sales crews, she orchestrates stocking, procurement, sales and operations. That includes buying from vendors who are part of the Fair Trade employment movement to reduce taking unfair advantage from crafts providers. The store is also the Friends hub for new members. People “can get their membership and ask questions about the Friends’ many activities.” It doubled in physical size in 2013 when it absorbed space that was formerly used for copying machines.

The Sign outside of the entrance of the Friends' of Library Store inside the RHPL - photo by John Smyntek

The Sign outside of the entrance of the Friends’ of Library Store inside the RHPL – photo by John Smyntek

It is no small endeavor. The store schedules 26 sales events throughout the year, including the November anniversary sale where the Pewabic items are offered at a bargain price.

Tomczyk is currently planning a trip to Marquette to look for items “that people won’t find in other places.” That includes items from private sellers and trips to the area’s many art fairs. She said the store combines “uniqueness and diversity” in one convenient stop.

Of all the items that have passed through the store in 23 years, what’s the one must-have item that’s almost always in stock and in demand?  Tomczyk’s choice is a Michigan mitt-shaped cutting board that’s been a best seller since it was introduced back in ’92.

Want to Volunteer?

Cars run on gasoline. Power plants can run on coal, natural gas, hydro or nuclear power. And the Friends of the Rochester Hills Public Library Store runs on volunteer power.

Library Volunteers, Treasurer Jac Caldwell, salespersons Jim Harris and Diane Abraham and store manager Darlene Tomczyk - photo by John Smyntek

Library Volunteers, Treasurer Jac Caldwell, salespersons Jim Harris and Diane Abraham and store manager Darlene Tomczyk – photo by John Smyntek

Volunteers are “100 percent important because the store is totally run by volunteers,” said store manager Darlene Tomczyk. “Without them there are days the store has to close.”

To fully staff the store – three persons per shift, 16 shifts a week – requires 48 workers. The schedules are flexible, which makes it convenient for folks who are looking to stay busy, help one of the areas institutional gems but don’t want a major time commitment.

What are other advantages? “Meeting and making friends and being out in the public, socialization, raising money for the library and they get a discount for store goods,” Tomczyk said.

But volunteers come and go and that means there always a need for replenishment of the corps. The Friends Membership Application form, is available online, at rhpl.org. Click on the “Friends of the RHPL” tab at the top of the page and then click on “Join the Friends.” Applications are also in the store and at the Library info desk when the store isn’t open. Or applicants can call the Friends Membership line, 248-650-7160, and leave a message.

The store hours are:
Monday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Tuesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday 1-4 p.m. (from September through June)

 

About Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer is a freelance content provider. Michael writes about happenings in the Rochester area, travels across Michigan and destinations around the world. Contact him at michael@rochestermedia.com.

Comments

  1. Dr Chris Larson says:

    Dear Friends of the Library Store-Store Manager, Darlene Tomczyk,
    Hi! I am very interested in the volunteerism at your volunteer store. Would you please email me at my personal email drlarson2012@yahoo.com. I have some exciting comments and questions. Thank you. I look forward to your response. Dr Chris Larson:)

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