Kicking off the tag sale season and supporting great local causes, the Curio Cottage Thrift Shop's annual tag sale event has had an impressive rise in stature in its ten years and offers another bounty of quality merchandise this spring.

Located at the Westport Woman's Club headquarters at 44 Imperial Ave., the shop will conduct its annual tag sale in the WWC clubhouse on Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Proceeds benefit Fairfield County-based charities.

The sale will offer a range of merchandise including furniture, vintage collectibles, china, glassware, housewares, home accessories, hostess gifts, small appliances, linens, artwork and games. Donations of saleable items (in good condition, no clothing) are tax-deductible and may be delivered to the clubhouse Tuesday through Thursday, March 8-10, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Karen Eickhoff, chairwoman of the shop, said the Curio Cottage's beginnings were modest. "Back in 1999, a member had an idea to use an existing building space here on the club's property to house a thrift shop and offer tax-deductible donations for sale. We pulled items from our homes to stock the shop and opened in June that year in conjunction with the Yankee Doodle Fair, Westport's four-day, old-fashioned festival." In August 2000, the shop held its first tag sale. "We put a few plastic tablecloths out in the parking lot and placed a few items on them including costume jewelry, straw baskets and miscellaneous kitchenware. We were panicky that we wouldn't have enough items to sell. I think we made $66 that year," said Eickhoff.

"It was a humble start but encouraging," Eickhoff added and, as the shop attracted more shoppers and donors -- often curious stop-ins who became regulars -- the annual tag sale grew in size and scope.

Six or seven years ago, a decision was made to shift the timeframe of the sale from August to March, which yielded several advantages. Explained Eickhoff, "The timing coincides with the beginning of the tag sale season, we're not competing with a lot of other events and we capture some great donations as people are starting to do their spring cleaning." The sale was also moved indoors to avoid any weather issues.

The sale now commands extensive set-up time and the efforts of a number of volunteers, who give their time generously and enthusiastically. "What used to take two hours to set up now takes about four full days," said Eickhoff. "There are so many items offered, they're uncountable. We fill the entire auditorium in the main clubhouse."

While the shop itself is a permanent revenue stream 52 weeks a year, the annual tag sale is a key fundraising opportunity, which takes in about $7,000 on average. Proceeds benefit more than 40 organizations and charities, including the Mercy Learning Center, Christian Community Action and Staples' scholarship program. The Community Services Committee of the Woman's Club handles the decision-making on funds distribution. "We try to spread it out as widely as we can to all the groups," said Eickhoff.

At this year's sale, visitors can expect to find quality items at great prices as well as eclectic unique items that are rarely seen, according to Eickhoff. "This year we received a lot of holiday items for all holidays throughout the year," she said. "We'll also have a lot of wonderful artwork that would look lovely in any home."

The Curio Cottage's motto is, she said: Where Shopping is Giving. "This is a fantastic resource that provides a great community service."

For more information about the tag sale, call 203-227-4240.