NEW CANAAN — According to some shoppers, the New Canaan Thrift Shop is the town’s “best kept secret.”

The racks and shelves of the historic building are lined with china, books, records, furniture, artwork, bric-a-brac, clothing, jewelry and accessories — much of which is designer made, according to store manager Susanne Palmer, who, with her staff of volunteers, was busy with a steady flow of customers on a recent Tuesday afternoon.

Palmer, who was born in Germany and moved to Darien after relocating to the United States, has been a vital part of the thrift shop for nearly 15 years: first as a volunteer, then as a manager after the death of Dolores Klein, who had run the shop for 13 years.

Since taking the reins, Palmer has continued the Thrift Shop’s tradition of community service, good will and surprisingly good finds.

Q: How long have you been managing the thrift shop?

More Information

Donations are accepted at the New Canaan Thrift Shop on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information on volunteering at the New Canaan Thrift Shop, go to visitingnurse.net

A: I’ve been the manager for four years now and I volunteered for more than 10 years with my mother, who also volunteered. We would come every Tuesday afternoon and it was our time together. So I’ve been here a long time.

Q: What is the history of the thrift shop? And what’s the connection to Hospice of Fairfield County?

A: I believe we’re about 80 years old now and the thrift shop has always been connected to a similar

charity. It used to be called Nursing and Homecare and now it’s Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Fairfield County. All the proceeds go directly to Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Fairfield County.

Q: Who comprises the staff?

A: We have 22 volunteers and we always welcome new ones. It’s a wonderful group of people to work with, but it can be hard because I’m the only one that’s here full time. Everybody else is a volunteer so I’m always juggling to make sure we have people at the store. I don’t like to have one person here by themselves because it’s just too much going on.

We have a morning shift from 9 a.m. to noon when we take donations and an afternoon shift when the store is open from noon to 4 p.m.

Q: Are there certain times during the year that you find volunteers and donations are harder to come by?

A: It’s very cyclical. The beginning of the year is usually very quiet; people will go to Florida and our volunteers will drop off a little bit. We also have some volunteers who leave during the summer, and another group that leaves during the winter. So it depends.

As for donations, we are very blessed because we get wonderful things. We have people that regularly donate and then the random — ‘Oh, we’re moving,’ or ‘Oh, we just moved into town’ — donors.

And we try to be very green and pass things on. If we can’t use something because it’s really soiled or torn, we pass it to another charity. If we get blankets and towels that we can’t use, we give them to the vet to use after the animals have operations. If we have off-season items that aren’t selling, we’ll donate them elsewhere. For example, we have a missionary who takes items that aren’t selling to Haiti. So we really try to pay it forward.

Q: As for customers, who do you see in the shop?

A: It’s a full range; we have everybody. College kids will come in looking for things for their fraternity and sorority parties, so that’s fun.

And then we have our regulars that come in whenever they’re in town. They call it the best kept secret in New Canaan because there’s such a variety of stuff and the bargains that you find are just incredible. Where else can you find a J. Crew t-shirt for $4?

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1