Customers volunteer, socialize, take classes. Some thrift stores have become a new kind of community center Retirees have always liked thrift stores and resale shops. They have time to search for treasures and almost-new clothes and furniture that sells for pennies on the dollar. While some department stores have closed their doors since the recession began, the number of new resale stores has increased by 7 percent a year, to 30,000 stores, according to the National Association of Resale Professionals. One in six adults visits a resale store. In Florida thrift stores, people come for more than bargains. They want to socialize, take classes and volunteer. One Goodwill store in Sarasota offers weekly classes on English, computer skills and crafts. The store provides free soda and the customers bring cakes, pies and cookies. Described in the AARP Bulletin, the Hillcrest Thrift Shop in Kansas City, Mo., has age 50-plus half-off days that attract bus loads of retirees. Volunteers always outnumber paid staff, because it's a way to do good, see old friends and make new ones. The popularity of thrifts is changing the industry. Large stores used to be 6,000 square feet, according to the Florida Goodwill Association, which oversees 500 donation centers. New stores are 30,000 to 40,000 square feet. Some retirees mix and mingle and, for about $10, buy merchandise they later return as a donation and take its value off their taxes. At Elephant's Trunk in Venice, Fla., almost all workers are volunteers. One retired couple says they want to do something for the community but also want to be around people their own age. This is the place for both.