Main Street Attraction
It is just before 10 a.m. on a weekday morning and Cindy Metcalfe is just starting her shift at the Main Street Attraction in downtown Alhambra. She’s tidying up the floor space and arranging the mannequins at the front of the storefront with its classic brick and mortar retail look. Metcalfe, a former television newscaster, is one of the impressive roster of volunteers at the bustling nonprofit resale boutique shop on Main St. not far from Alhambra High School.
Since opening in 1984, Main Street Attraction has been at their mission of selling donated, high-quality garments and accessories to raise scholarship funds for young women from Alhambra and nearby communities in the San Gabriel Valley. Their inventory includes clothes and accessories for girls, boys, women, men, and even infants. The proceeds of their forward-looking mission allows Main Street Attraction to distribute individual scholarships ranging from $2,000-$10,000 every year. Last year, $36,000 in scholarships were awarded to eight young women.
Students enrolled into any of the public schools within the Alhambra, Pasadena, South Pasadena, San Gabriel, and San Marino Unified School Districts are eligible for the scholarships. High school seniors can reach out to their counselors regarding the application cycle. According to Chuang, students who demonstrate financial need, show academic merit, and “demonstrate a love for community service” are considered for the reward.
The shop itself is one of the many endeavors around the country run by the National Charity League, Inc.(NCL), the nonprofit enterprise whose mission is to foster mother-daughter relationships and build leadership skills for young women through community service and cultural experiences.
All of the staff at Main Street Attraction are volunteers and all are members of the San Marino chapter of the National Charity League. The resale boutique is just one of the philanthropic activities in the San Gabriel Valley that the NCL supports with its volunteer efforts.
“There are 20 organizations that we support with volunteer hours and Main Street Attraction is just one of those philanthropies,” said Jennifer Chuang, Director of Main Street Attraction. These local philanthropic organizations include Pasadena Humane Society, Crowell Public Library in San Marino, LA County/ USC Medical Center, and Ability First, to name a few.
Metcalfe is one of the team of four mothers working this day. The rest of the team takes inventory, restocks racks, manage volunteer schedules and fulfill other retail tasks. As the doors open, Metcalfe greets the familiar patrons who are either Alhambra residents or drive over from neighboring SGV cities. The clientele ranges in age from young students, to grandparents, to mothers shopping for their kids, to men looking for new suits. “Anyone on a budget is welcome,” said Metcalfe.
Her favorite customers are the Alhambra High School students who come in during lunch or after school looking for the latest stylish bargains. “They are always commenting about how terrific it is that they stumbled across this store, because as struggling students, you can imagine how expensive [clothes] can be,” she said.
According the Metcalfe, major brands such as Zara, Brandy Nike, and even Giorgio Armani can be found on racks in the store, with store prices ranging from $2 to $20. On their Poshmark closet, a resale e-commerce marketplace, Main Street Attraction post their high end clothing starting at $6 and going up to $170.
To volunteer at Main Street Attraction, one must become e a member of an NCL Inc. chapter, and have a daughter between 7th-12th grade. Daughters of members are known as “Ticktockers,” and on average Ticktockers volunteer between 17,000-20,000 hours a year around the country.
Metcalfe, who is now in her fourth year volunteering at Main Street Attraction, says the volunteering has led to some memorable bonding experiences. “[Being a member] allows my daughter and I to work side by side helping out in the community,” she told Alhambra Source.
She recalls an experience she had volunteering with her daughter Kate, 15, at Villa Esperanza Services, which provides help for “intellectually/developmentally” challenged individuals in Pasadena.
Metcalfe said that the experience touched her daughter on an emotional level and sparked her to consider pursuing a career that supports communities facing similar challenges when she attends a university. Kate looks forward to volunteering at Ability First, another philanthropy with a similar mission, next year. It’s the diversity of volunteer opportunities that attracts Metcalfe and her daughter.
On top of the mother/daughter opportunities to bond through volunteering, the primary purpose of Main Street Attraction is to raise scholarship money for young girls who demonstrate a financial need and seek higher education after high school.
Due to the volunteer nature of its staff the store has interesting operating hours and an even more interesting business model. On average, the shop is open between 10 a.m — 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (visit website for accurate hours). She is just one of the busy mothers who volunteer their time.
In addition to being a mother of two, Chuang is the owner and preschool director of a private education center in Montebello and often lectures on childhood development at Cal State, Los Angeles. She received her B.A. in Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley and has an M.A. in Education from Cal State LA.
Chuang says the store accepts only donations that come from active members of the NCL, Inc. Many of the donations come from those who live in San Marino and Pasadena, she says, noting the quality of the merchandise is often better quality and condition than one might find at the Salvation Army or Goodwill Industries.
Of the scholarships, Chuang says they are given to graduating seniors who demonstrate
a need for assistance to fund their higher education.
Chuang recalls one instance where a scholarship awardee gave back her award because she received a full-ride from her chosen university.
The walls of Main Street Attraction are not only filled with fashionable accessories and well-dressed mannequins but also pictures of scholarship winners over the years with details including the winners’ names, grant amount, high school, university and a testimonial on the store and how the scholarship funds affected their college experience.
One UCLA student named Julie made the wall and wrote “no words can describe the gratitude I have or the NCL and all they stand for. This scholarship has facilitated my path to success in countless ways.”
These reminders serve as inspirations for the mothers and their daughters volunteering their time in the spirit of bonding while serving a greater good.
Updated 8:48 p.m. on 11/27/19 .