Where in Conway can a person go to buy the movies Lawrence of Arabia or Patton for 25 cents, or a Tchaikovsky concert for 99 cents?
There’s bound to be just one; it’s the Salvation Army’s Family Store at its new larger and brighter store at 1502 Fourth Ave. in the center of the strip shopping center.
Capt. Carl Melton says the store actually was located there before it moved to Downtown Conway on the corner of Third Avenue and Laurel Street.
But at that location, Melton said loading and unloading merchandise was a problem as was parking, so about 18 months ago the group began to look for a new location. That’s when the old became new again, but better, according to Melton.
Store manager Annie Sayre said, “I love working here. I’ve been working here since January 2019.”
She was forced to take six months off to care for her children when they were out of school, due to the pandemic, and just couldn’t wait to get back. She was able to return in September.
“They’ve been a God send to me in many ways, in so many ways,” she said of the Salvation Army and family store’s staff.
COVID closed things down some for a while, but they’re back now she said.
“It’s going well,” Sayre said.
Serving as lead store clerk for two years now is Jean King.
“I really, really enjoy my job, the atmosphere, the people, the customers. It’s all combined into one big happy family,” she said.
Although merchandise in the store changes from day to day, earlier this week there were books, kitchen canisters, a magnetic photo album, birthday wrapping paper, jigsaw puzzles, shoes, teapots, men’s ties, women’s pocketbooks, several sofas, a few tables and chairs, men’s and women’s shorts, women’s bathing suits, suitcases, hats and headbands to name just a little.
Melton said women’s clothes are among his best sellers with bric-a-brac coming in second.
He says some traders and antiquers really like the bric-a-brac and have come up with some great finds and sold them.
Traders are looking for deals and often find them, he said. At times, they upgrade or clean up those items and sell them for large profits, which they like to see.
“They’ll make a killing off of it, but that’s okay. We want them to do that, not against it,” he said.
As they looked for a new location, Melton said, “It was vital that we stay in Conway.”
He especially likes that he can almost “throw a rock and hit my office from here.”
It’s also close to the Army’s worship center.
The building also serves as a central warehouse where people can take their donations. That made it possible for them to close the former warehouse the should eventually save the Army about $80,000 every year, all money that can go back into the Army’s helping programs that include feeding hungry people and meeting the needs of people suffering due to disasters.
“Everything beyond overhead, 100 percent goes right back into community services,” he said.
Melton says they prefer that people give the store things that are in good or only slightly used condition, especially if they’re asking that the Salvation Army’s three trucks pick up the donations, serving primarily Conway to the coast.
The captain said his trucks and their six drivers stay busy and are already scheduled for pickups into about mid-April. He hopes to buy two more trucks and hire the necessary drivers. He anticipates each truck costing the Army $6,000 to $8,000 a month to operate.
When people ask them to pick up things that aren’t in good shape it costs the Army money.
But, he said, the “name of the game” is to move merchandise.
One of the Army’s purposes is disaster relief and as recently as this past week, the group spent time preparing to respond to a forecast of hail, lightning and maybe even tornadoes.
In the face of tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters, they send their mobile feeding unit into the community to meet the needs of their neighbors with warm meals, and burned out families with clothing and household items.
As for their work, he said, “Every bit of it should point to Jesus, and if it’s not I tell our staff we have to rethink it. The mission is to point people to Jesus,” he said.
Melton and his wife, Major Jennifer Melton, work together to oversee Horry County’s Salvation Army operation. They both are the children of Salvation Army retirees.
He says whole families dedicated to the mission of the Army aren’t unusual.
“The idea is it’s a lifetime of service,” he said.
Horry County is also picking up a number of what he calls “half backers”. These are Salvation Army officers who retired from northern units and headed South, but they stopped about half-way before getting to Florida.
He and his wife also pastor the Salvation Army church whose congregation now is made up primarily of retired Salvation Army retirees.
The Meltons came to Conway about two years ago from Louisville, Ky. He says he calls Lexington, S.C., home and graduated from the University of South Carolina. He said when he learned they were coming back to South Carolina he was so happy, “I bout hopped, skipped and jumped.”
Now, “We’ve fallen in love with this community…Horry County as a whole is back home to us,” he said.
“We fight the battle with the soldiers that we’ve got and we’ve got good soldiers,” he said, adding that every member of his team has a passion for people. “I think you’ll find it’s a passion for people. It’s more than just work. That’s valuable to me,” he said.
There are four Salvation Army stores in Horry County, one each in Conway, Surfside, North Myrtle Beach and Loris. All of them, except Loris, are open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m-4 p.m. Loris is closed on Saturday.
There are 37 employees in Horry County.