TurnStyle’s World Turned Upside Down

By Brooke DellaRocco, Staff Writer

On the fifth floor of Thomas Hall there is a tiny room, filled to the brim with clothing, exploding with different patterns displayed across the walls. This is TurnStyle. TurnStyle is the non-profit campus thrift store, here at Manhattan College, which allows students to give back to the community while indulging in a bit of retail therapy. This year they were supposed to be  back, but instead were at a grueling standstill all semester. The problem seems to emerge from a funding issue inside student engagement that ties back to financial aid, assistant vice president of student life John Bennett told The Quadrangle.

Opened in September of 2021, the program gained its footing in the community with the help of its founder, Liola Moody ‘22. The funding for the project mostly came from the student engagement Office at Manhattan College, where they used money out of their Federal Work Study Budget from the office of financial aid to allow students to be hired and get paid for their time working in the shop. 

The Student Government Association (SGA) also participated with helping out the store, covering day-to-day business costs like hangers, or lights. It was an exciting time for people who enjoyed working in retail and customer service as well as shoppers and donors.

When senior Becky McCann stepped up to run the thrift shop this year, she found out about the funding issues, which were rooted from the original standing amount of money that was provided to the store from student engagement, originating from financial aid. 

Unfortunately, the amount was not substantial enough to sustain the store for seven days a week, open to close. This puts the students in a difficult situation as the store has to cease to provide work study for many, and only use volunteers in order to continue their mission with the resources they have. McCann had to think about reducing the hours of business, possibly to just 2-3 days because in addition to the funding issues, they do not have enough volunteers.

Senior Colette Barron, a volunteer, is sad to see McCann miss her opportunity to lead the program for the first semester.

“I just think it’s really uncalled for and I think that she was going to do amazing things and I just wanted to see her do that,” Barron said.

Bennett commented on the issue, and how student engagement wishes to see the leaders work around it.

“We’re definitely willing to and want to support and fund them again and have money set aside for them, just not for the ‘every hour, multiple student workers per hour, five days a week’. We don’t have funding for that. So really, it’s up to the student leadership and how they want to use the funding that we have,” Bennett said.

Denise Scalzo, executive director of financial aid, declined to comment specifically on the funding issues.

This is the second time Turnstyle has been put on pause. In the spring semester of last year, TurnStyle was put on hold due to a separate issue with funding. It seems that TurnStyle and student engagement have run into frequent issues with their endeavors, with student engagement giving as much help as they can muster.

“The good news is that Student Government is in support of the program, and is currently exploring the various ways that they can provide additional support to the managers running the store this year, which includes funding support,” Sharon Ortega, the assistant director of student engagement, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle.

With student engagement and the SGA’s help, the pressure still falls onto McCann’s shoulders to find a solution and decide how she wants to go about using the funding they do have. Her plan was to keep Liola Moody’s vision going and continue to contribute to the community atmosphere until they started to run into issues in September of 2022.

“From talking to Liola and regaining ownership, I just assumed I would come in, talk to student engagement, get everything set up again, open the store and do the same thing we did last semester,” McCann said.

The future of TurnStyle is currently up in the air right now with employees and volunteers deciding whether to continue with the thrift shop or find another opportunity for Federal Work Study elsewhere. Grace Martin, who was supposed to be a federal work study employee at Turnstyle, is hoping for the best possible outcome.

“I’m disappointed that a lot of this stuff was not figured out behind the scenes, not Becky’s fault, but in terms of the funding. I believe we’ll make a comeback and I think so many people like it, I can’t see it going anywhere for good,” Martin said.

Student Engagement also has continued faith in this thrift store, commenting on how the most difficult part of running any business is that first year. 

“We want to see them be successful. They’ve already had a very successful first year so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be successful and be up and running for a year or two. So it’s something we want to see happen,” Bennett said. 

With TurnStyle still waiting to open, small businesses have lost a large sum of their income. Maeve Kirk, who creates handmade rings, says the current challenges surrounding the business have really opened her eyes to how much she enjoyed being featured with TurnStyle and wants the reign of Thomas Hall’s tiny thrift store to continue.

TurnStyle also served as another way for Manhattan College to engage with the Bronx community. All the clothes that are not sold are donated to local charities, donation centers and people in need.

“It’s up to the students. It’s 2:13pm right now, they could open at 2:15pm today if they wanted. So it’s really up to them meeting with Sharon and deciding on what they want their semester to look like,” Bennett said at the beginning of the fall semester. As of early December, Turnstyle has yet to reopen for business.