Ruthie’s Boutique | Center Garden Condominium (Unit 2).
Among the town’s longest-running and best-loved stores, Ruthie’s Boutique is a nonprofit thrift shop, facing Bradford Street, whose receipts benefit the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, HOW — Helping Our Women, the Homeless Prevention Council, and the Carrie A. Seaman Animal Shelter. The shop was originally an outgrowth of HAPI (forerunner of Outer Cape Health Services), which was headquartered upstairs. Ruth Adler began managing the HAPI Thrift Store around 1977. According to the Ruthie’s Boutique website, the new name emerged by pure chance when the artist Nancy (Whorf) Kelly refused to pay for her thrift store purchases with a check made out to Health Associates, “having had some ‘issues’ with them.” Instead, on the spot, Kelly designated the payee as “Ruthie’s Boutique.” Adler managed the store through the early 1990s. She even made her way into The New York Times, which described a scene late in the 1989 season when summer visitors brought boxes bursting full of goods to donate after closing their house. “Excuse me,” Adler announced to other customers in the store. “My fall line is coming in.”
Writing for The Cape Codder in 2008, Steve Desroches recalled meeting a pretentious sort at a fancy cocktail party who asked him, “Did you get that shirt at Daniel Cleary’s?”
The shirt, which probably cost almost $200, did indeed come from the Provincetown designer’s boutique. However, I bought it at Ruthie’s thrift shop on Bradford Street for about $4. And I told him so. Suddenly, the man walked away to get some more Brie as if his life depended on it. …
The culture of recycling on the Outer Cape taps into both the environmental mindedness of the region as well as the long-standing tradition of Yankee frugality. But it’s also become an important element of the local economy, particularly for those who struggle to make a living on Cape Cod. It’s a way of helping your friends and neighbors out, albeit most of the time anonymously.
One Ruth E. Adler, who lived at 29 Standish Street, died in 1998 at the age of 80. (At this writing, I do not know whether this was the Ruth Adler who managed Ruthie’s.)
¶ Last updated on 18 March 2018.