Carson City's FISH thrift store experienced a significant downturn in revenues last year, but the tables have turned, by a whopping $100,000.
Monte Fast, executive director of the nonprofit organization, said the rise in revenues means the needy in Carson City and rural Northern Nevada will be served. He credits the thrift store's success to a good team and his store manager, Juan Delgado.
Soft-spoken, Delgado stood hunched against the November chill in the receiving room at the thrift store. He smiles easily, but there's an intensity in his expression as he talks about his work and why he loves the job.
"I get a real rush when I can make someone happy by giving them a good price," Delgado said. "When they go home with a couch or a refrigerator, it makes my day. I like the wheeling and dealing, and I like doing things for people. We give clothes away to those who have no money."
Fast said Delgado leads by example and gained the respect of his employees working side-by-side with them. The thrift store has six regular employees and 15 volunteers.
"I worked in a Los Angeles factory and when the supervisor walked by, everyone became nervous, got scared," Delgado said. "I want my people to know that when there's a problem, they can talk to me."
The thrift store had been experiencing a serious downturn for about 14 months. Officials from the organization had spent time working on customer relations -- to no avail.
In an effort to address the problem, Fast got the staff together at the Ormsby House, which was about to close.
"Juan was serving me," he said. "I asked him if he was about to lose his job and he said yes. I gave him my card and he was in my office within the hour."
Delgado started by unloading trucks and moving donations from the parking lot.
"He was on the ball," Fast said. "So, when the management job came open, we gave him a try.
"There's no big secret to good business management," Fast said. "The basic principles, like customer relations and pricing, are clear. Juan leads in all of the issues."
Founded as an emergency food closet in 1979, Friends in Service Helping, or FISH, offers temporary and emergency services and referrals to needy families and individuals throughout rural Northern Nevada. Fast said the recent rise in revenues provides the organization with the minimum budget needed to run these programs.
"This is the way citizens support the needy in Carson City and this shop is our money tree," he said. "Sixty-five cents of every dollar we spend on them is generated here. When the thrift store has a nosebleed, FISH has a hemorrhage."
Fast calls the operation a family affair. That's true in more ways than one. Delgado manages the thrift store and his wife, Daysi Moreira, is head cook at the family dining room.
Moreira spent eight years cooking for lunch trucks in Los Angeles, before moving to Carson City with her husband.
She said she loves the work. People take the time to thank her and compliment her cooking, and she likes the staff: one assistant cook, one dishwasher and the 15 volunteers so critical to the operation.
"We serve a lot of Mexican food," she said with an easy smile. "I'm making salsa every day."
Originally from Colima, Mexico, Delgado was raised in Los Angeles. He moved to Carson City with his wife three years ago to get away from the crowds and crime. They have a 2-year-old son, Andrew.