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Sunflower Shoppe offers colorful dresses

Sunflower Shoppe Manager Sandy Fiesinger and volunteer clerk Anna Holland recently show off prom dresses available at the 37 W. Main St., Johnstown, store. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — Like the eye-catching flower it’s named after, the growing Sunflower Shoppe in the heart of downtown Johnstown is bursting with color, energy and promise, especially this time of year.

It’s prom shopping time and people are looking for special deals.

Thriving just over two years since reopening at 26 W. Main St., the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association’s Sunflower Shoppe for women and young ladies is a testament to the stick-to-itiveness of 19th Century women’s rights leader and Johnstown native Stanton. The successful nonprofit sustains itself financially, while being run by over 50 area volunteers. The shop carries various types of garments from those worn by career women to promgoers, and items are also donated on a daily basis.

“Our name is getting out there,” says original Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association incorporator Nancy Baird Brown.

While open to all, the Sunflower Shoppe’s special focus is to assist women entering the job market for the first time or re-entering the labor force to find quality, affordable clothing to help them move toward economic independence. More high-end than your average thrift shop, the shop has added many beautiful pairs of jeans of late. Only new shoes are accepted.

The outside of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association's Sunflower Shoppe on West Main Street in Johnstown is seen recently. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

The store is also the seasonal home of Elizabeth & Eileen’s Closet — another ECSHA community outreach project offering prom dresses that can be rented for $30 or purchased for $50. When customers bring back the prom dress, they can get $20 back.

“It’s a $10 prom dress,” explains ECSHA volunteer Sunflower Shoppe Manager Sandy Fiesinger.

She said the shop carries women’s clothes sizes ranging from 0-28.

Sunflower Shoppe accepts gently used women’s clothes for casual, dressy and employment needs — including coats, jackets, suits, slacks, dresses, blouses, sweaters, purses, accessories and stylish jeans — in all sizes.

The shop has even helped in other ways such as gathering items and clothing for fire victims and cancer patients.

The name of the Sunflower Shoppe came from Stanton, who used the pseudonym “Sunflower” as she wrote articles for The Lily. It was the first newspaper for women. The paper, issued from 1849 until 1853, was edited by Amelia Bloomer, of “Bloomer costume” fame. Initially, Elizabeth wrote about temperance, child-bearing and education. But before long, she was writing about women’s rights and laws unfair to women, demanding change.

The sunflower, the Kansas state flower was also used in Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony’s 1867 campaign in Kansas in support of full women’s suffrage. After Kansas suffragists used the sunflower in the campaign, yellow, along with white and purple became the symbolic colors of the national women’s suffrage movement.

The ECSHA — incorporated in June 2008 — honors the life and legacy of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The Sunflower Shoppe, which used to be located across the street from its present location, reopened in January 2018 and is better than ever. The reopening was attended by New York state Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul.

According to Fiesinger, the public can contact her by calling 518-736-1255 if you have time, clothing, equipment or other types of donations for the Sunflower Shoppe.

“We help women in the workforce,” Fiesinger notes.

The shop has also been successful making connections with other organizations in the community such as the United Way, Project LIFT, 100 Women Who Care of the Adirondack Footfills, and the Family Counseling Center for people in need.

Volunteer Anna Holland notes the Sunflower Shoppe takes cash only.

“Right now I’m in sale mode,” says Fiesinger.

The shop has two dressing rooms for the public’s convenience.

The store’s Facebook page states, “Once again we are turning to you-we need prom dresses! Please consider donating that dress hanging in your closet. Help a young girl’s dream come true. We ask that any donations are clean and gently used.”

The shop also is currently advertising great winter deals. “We need shoppers! We are overstocked with fabulous winter clothing — at fabulous prices-50 to 75 percent off,” the Facebook page says.

Sixty prom dresses exchanged hands last year.

The Sunflower Shoppe is open from Tuesday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The non-profit’s website is www.ecstantonhometown.org. People can make monetary donations to the ECSHA at P.O. Box 753, Johnstown, N.Y. 12095-0753.

Inventory has doubled since the Sunflower Shoppe first opened.

The husbands and male friends of the female volunteers have assisted in various ways at the shop, including building shelving. People also donate to make the shop more attractive.

“So much of the shop, a lot, has been the men of our lives,” Holland said.

She said customers have told the proud volunteer store operators: “You don’t carry junk.”

Brown adds, “I think we’re seeing the improvement of the shopper experience here.”

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association has and continues to sponsor many events in the community in the name of Stanton. They include a local cell phone tour of her life.

“Our ability to serve our mission is growing,” Brown said.

Aug. 26, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote nationally, and the ECSHA as part of the celebration will be part of a bike ride. The ride event will be from Aug. 20 -23 and goes from Johnstown– the birthplace of both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her revolutionary ideas — to her home in Seneca Falls where she shared those ideas at the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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