Boutique owner uses thrift store to help homeless women, children

Small Business Spotlight

NEW YORK — A Manhattan businesswoman who balances her time between her multiple locations and a nonprofit is making a difference in her community, even with a pandemic pushing against her.

And it’s busy work — for Deborah Koenigsberger, downtime is few and far between.

If she’s not tending to customers at her women’s French clothing boutique Noir et Blanc in the NoMad district, she’s changing lives with her nonprofit Hearts of Gold, which she operates at a store front just 20 feet away.

The mission of the high-end thrift shop the Thrifty Hog is to lift up and serve homeless mothers and their children living in New York City shelters.

“Our goal is one mom at a time, let’s break that cycle,” Koenigsberger explained. “Let’s get you to the point where you understand your value, let’s help you find a career path and let’s help support you in that effort.”

That support comes from providing job training at the retail space where the women learn about merchandising, marketing, social media and customer service — each skills they’ll use to branch out.

“It’s just about unlocking their potential,” she said. “The biggest gift you can give someone is to believe in them and say you can.”

Over the course of 27 years, her foundation has helped 35,000 mothers and children — but the COVID-19 pandemic brought a series of obstacles to her businesses.

Sales at her boutique are down 87%, and the thrift shop — where proceeds go toward her non-profit — has also taken a hit. That decrease in revenue means the need is greater than ever.

“We’ve been able to answer the call as much as possible, but the need is so much greater and it’s scary because this thing is not over,” she said.

Despite the uncertainty, Koenigsberger is forging ahead.

“You know — I am a girl who rises to challenges, so we will figure this out because we are not going down.”

Click here to learn more about the Hearts of Gold Foundation and to donate toward their cause.

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