North Carolina May 26, 2017
If You Live In North Carolina, You Must Visit This Unbelievable Thrift Store At Least Once
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, but one couple’s hard work and love of eclectic things was brought back to life by a very motivated, creative individual who happened to be their grandson. A living art museum, thrift store, a unique place to browse and learn about local artists? Elsewhere in Greensboro is all of the above, and this unique thrift store pays homage to both the past and present with a delicate balance of art, innovation and creativity.
In 1937 Joe and Sylvia Gray launched a series of businesses honing in on the surplus of business space available in downtown Greensboro. Through the years, 'Carolina Store Company' took advantage of empty trucks returning from New York City and stocked them with items from Depression-era storehouses. As they outgrew the space, they purchased a three story building on Elm Street with the first floor as retail, second floor a four-family boarding house and third floor warehouse.
Following WWII the store transitioned from a furniture store to army surplus, yet in 1955 Joe Gray unexpectedly passed away leaving Sylvia with a family to raise and a business to maintain. Sylvia, who had always been an eclectic gal with a penchant for knick knacks, struggled in the ten years following his death to maintain the declining business. Sylvia continued to expand the store and by the 1970s she expanded to add general thrift items, knick knacks, clothing, dishes, housewares and basically anything that could fit. She shopped twice a day at the local Salvation Army and Goodwill and worked at the store until the day she died in 1997.
From the mass of goods she accumulated, the store was so overwhelming in nature the doors remained closed until 2003 until Sylvia's grandson, George Scheer and a friend decided to pay a visit. Their minds ran wild with ideas for the store and the one question that remained - "Could Sylvia’s collection become a thinking playground?"
By May 2003 George had convince two friends to move with him to Greensboro and figure out what exactly to do with the store. In 2005 the three friends decided to launch an artist residency at the former thrift store. While nothing was for sale the artists were challenged to create their own works of art through everything that existed within the store.
Today, the Elsewhere Residency program attracts not just local but state and nationwide artists to create and collaborate. Deemed 'Elsewherians' they're challenged to think outside the thrift and utilize Sylvia's vast collection of objects to reflect her eclectic nature in their own way. The residencies are between two-four weeks long with many in Greensboro and surrounding areas visiting frequently to see how the store shifts and change from the many artists that recreate and reshape through Sylvia's vast collection.
While Elsewhere seems packed to the brim it's also a place for visitors to discover and feel influenced by their own creativity. A place of inspiration and a place of thrift, many items featured are hard to find elsewhere (hence the name, hmm). On any given year, Elsewhere will host around 50 different artists.
The 'living art museum' is open to the public Thursday-Saturday from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. with an admission fee of $1-$5 on a donation-base. There's also a weekly three floor tour Saturdays with a limited space of 15 people and $5/person.
While nothing is for sale in this eclectic space, one of the many joys of thrifting is indeed browsing through the vast expanse of collected items and letting your mind wander to the whimsy and creativity of it all. You'll find all of that and more at Elsewhere.
To learn more about Elsewhere, Sylvia and George watch this fascinating video by Christopher Kennedy below
What a neat place and fascinating backstory. Have you visited here before?
For more North Carolina ‘quirks’ have you ever visited
this iconic gas station?