Andrea Caswell is not the kind of boss who is content to sit in her office all day.
The manager of New Life Thrift Shop in Lewes is hands-on. She does everything from pitching in with volunteers handling donations to coming up with the store’s look to creating theme months to help boost sales.
Since she took over, New Life has begun holding sales events almost every day of the week; one day it’s 50 percent off hats, another day it’s games and puzzles half off. One of the more successful promotions, Caswell said, is senior discount day, with seniors 55 and older receiving 10 percent off. She instituted a specialty area called Cinderella’s Closet, with a selection of formal wear, wedding dresses and tuxedos. For the upcoming fall and winter holiday months, New Life redecorated the room as Peter’s Pumpkin Patch with a Halloween theme, and Christmas will feature a Christmas section called Linda and Carol’s Christmas Cove.
Caswell, who speaks with a pronounced New England accent, also coordinates the volunteer staff, which frequently changes from one day to the next. Her routine, she said, stays the same. She leads the staff in a prayer before going over the week’s sales and upcoming events.
“It never ends,” Caswell said about her work. “But it’s gotta be that way or else we wouldn’t survive. It’s good. It’s fun.”
When she took over as manager, Caswell set about making changes, including putting in new floors in the back stockroom and repainting all the walls. She chose orange, which she said has shown to be welcoming, leading to increased sales.
“I like organization,” she said. “I like to do things in themes and make it fun.”
Caswell has worked at New Life for three years, starting as a volunteer before rising to assistant manager and then becoming manager in May. She said volunteer work is in her blood.
“My mother was a stay-at-home mom. She always did hospice and Meals on Wheels. My father was always involved; he was a selectman for many years,” Caswell said.
The youngest of eight children, Caswell said her 83-year-old mother, when she comes to visit, will every now and again volunteer. Most of the volunteers are seniors, but Caswell said they are all passionate and hardworking; the store gives them a sense of purpose. Caswell got involved in the shop thanks to her brother, the Rev. Chris Hanley, formerly at St. Edmond Roman Catholic Church in Rehoboth Beach, now associate pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Middletown.
“I’m really proud of him,” Caswell said.
She grew up raised Irish Catholic in Randolph, Maine, outside Augusta. Caswell came to Delaware during her previous career working within the harness racing business.
“I worked at a lot of race tracks. I worked mainly at the Meadowlands race track in East Rutherford, N.J.,” she said.
Growing up on a farm, Caswell said she liked horses from a young age. At the tracks, she would be the person responsible for the information in the race program, and other administrative duties.
Caswell’s husband, Paul, had taken a job in lower Delaware, so for a time, she commuted to Sussex County, but eventually moved down herself, settling into volunteer work while still working part time for the Meadowlands and other tracks. Caswell and her husband live in Milford and have no children together.
“I love it here,” Caswell said of living in Delaware. “The people are great.”