Since its inception in 2011, Second Life has been harnessing the power of “resale therapy” to help animals in need. The part-thrift store, part-organization is dedicated to providing grants to local animal rescues that saving homeless pets and preventing unwanted animals from being born through spaying/neutering services. The idea came to co-founders Tanya Mahrous Tobias and Toby Tobias after they were inspired by their late rescue Dalmatian, Lucky.
“Lucky was deemed unadoptable by a rescue group after being returned twice,” Tanya told Georgia Voice. “One of the volunteers thought that was crazy and asked us to foster him. We soon knew he wasn’t going anywhere; we just fell in love with him.” Lucky inspired the couple to dip their toes into animal rescue, but they realized that founding another rescue organization wasn’t the way to do it. “We looked at the animal rescue landscape and realized the biggest need out there was financing, and every consequent animal rescue that’s formed takes away from the financial pie,” said Toby. “We wanted the pie to be bigger.” When Tanya happened to stumble upon a store with a similar concept in her hometown in Nebraska, the idea came to full fruition; thus, Second Life was born.
Almost a decade later, Second Life has donated over $1.6 million in the form of grants to more than 70 animal charities across Georgia, including PAWS Atlanta, Pet Buddies Food Pantry, Furkids, and LifeLine Animal Project. While the main goal of the stores is to donate these proceeds, the couple also wanted to create a great shopping experience for their loyal customers, one that could rival nice retail shops. The “upscale thrift stores” offer more than 6,500 square feet of shopping, from gently used clothing and accessories to housewares, home décor, books, and furniture, and all of it benefits the environment. “The store is a way to keep things out of the landfill for me,” Toby said. “It keeps stuff from having to be recycled if it still has life left in it. Second Life not only gives animals a second life, it gives items a second life, too.”
The organization also makes physical donations, fosters, and educates. “We collect pet food, litter, and supplies for a pet food pantry, we’ve fostered over 150 kittens and cats in our store, we offer space for rescues to do adoption events, we donate old blankets to shelters, and we educate through signs across the store that promote spay and neuter, pet adoption, and Black Dog Syndrome [the phenomenon that black cats and dogs get adopted less often than lighter animals],” Tanya said.
However, like many organizations, the help they provide has been impeded by COVID-19. Second Life distributes grants on a quarterly basis, but since the store was forced to close from mid-March to the beginning of June, funds that would have gone to grants this quarter had to be used for the organization to stay afloat. “It was a huge loss,” Tanya said, “and it really hurts … It’s going to take a while to build our finances back up so that we can get back to doing what we love to do.” The pandemic did bring a silver lining, however. “Everyone is staying home and cleaning out their closets,” Toby said, “so we’ve had an outpouring of donations.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, only their main store is open (at 1 N. Clarendon Avenue in Avondale Estates) during limited hours—Wednesday–Saturday noon–5 pm—and they are currently only accepting donations on Saturdays. Besides continuing to donate and shop, the couple urges those who wish to help to volunteer and spread the word. “We always need volunteers, especially now,” Tanya said. “Our team members are the heart and soul of the organization. They don’t get the credit they deserve.”
“Another big way people could support us is to promote, to let people know we’re here,” Toby said. “We try to do minimal marketing, so we can keep costs down and generate more revenue for grants, but if people can promote us on their own, through whatever means they have, that’s how we really grow.”
And grow, they plan to. The couple has dreams to eventually open stores across the Southeast to help even more animal organizations. For now, though, they simply want to invite any and all animal lovers to experience what Second Life has to offer. “We are a very welcoming and inclusive place for anyone who is friendly and welcoming,” Tanya said. “We would love to see more animal lovers and bargain hunters in our stores, from the LGBTQ community and any community. We know that your support makes a difference.”