At first glance, the interior of The Camouflage Rhino looks and feels just like any other thrift store you may have visited. Racks of clothing, second-hand furniture and various used appliances fill the sales floor. However, after learning about the store’s mission, these items suddenly have a noble purpose.
The Camouflage Rhino employs area vets through a jobs program and 96 cents of every dollar it brings in goes directly to the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia.
The idea for the store originated when the VMC was trying to find a better method of storing and offering donated items.
“There was a need down at the center,” said Rose Mcgee said, the manager of the store and the jobs program. “We were getting donations for veterans but we couldn’t process them and easily get them to the veterans that needed them.”
In spite of the store’s innovative model of making the goods available to vets while also being open for sales to the public, it has struggled financially. McGee explained that is a major hurdle that the store has been facing since it opened in 2013.
“We only made money one month so far,” McGee said. “If you look at it over the 15 months that we have been here, we haven’t made money at all yet.”
One of the issues the store is dealing with is that the signage out front still bares the name of the previous tenant, The Tangerine Rhino. Without a proper storefront sign, passersby and Mayfair residents have no way of knowing about the causes the store supports.
“Because we haven’t made money, we have not been able to get signage or advertise the store,” McGee said. “It would help us make more money but we just don’t have it right now.”
Fortunately, there is potential assistance available to the store. The Mayfair Community Development Corporation has approached them concerning a match grant program available to businesses in the neighborhood. The grant would alleviate some of the costs and allow the store to make exterior improvements.
“We are working with the Mayfair CDC so once we have our part of the money we can get the signage,” McGee said. “We are also hoping to do a mural on the side of the building and have rooftop billboards put up.”
To make a donation or find out more about the Camouflage Rhino, call 267-731-6733 or visit the store located at 7126 Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.
– Text, images and video by Bob Dieckmann.