Ethel Wade is a North Memphis resident and regular customer at Oasis Appliance & Home Furnishings
“This is my crew,” she said. “This is my favorite spot. The prices are wonderful. They work with you. I got everybody in my family coming here.”
Oasis Appliance is a nonprofit secondhand store that sells appliances, household items, and furniture at prices that are affordable for the area's low- and moderate-income residents.
“We have everything that you would see in your living room or dining room or kitchen,” said Strategic Manager Dana Driver. “It all has to be good quality but very reduced prices so that our community [gets] a good deal,” said Driver.
The store is located at 1294 Thomas Street in the Uptown-Manassas area of North Memphis.
Most of the furnishings and appliances are secondhand but carefully inspected and repaired if damaged.
“We have a technician who goes through them before we set them on the floor,” said Operational Manager, Gary Booth.
A portion of the building is home to Oasis Bike Shop.
“There’s no bike shop in North Memphis, South Memphis, or Southeast Memphis so we’re an anomaly out here,” said Gene Carkett, the bike shop's manager. “We have a lot of frequent riders that we take care of so that they can ride their bike and get to work.”
Oasis Appliance Store at 1294 Thomas St. is also home to Oasis Bike Shop. It is primarily a youth ministry that helps kids learn to ride, repair, and maintain bikes. The shop sells bikes at some of the most affordable prices in Memphis. (A.J. Dugger)
The bike shop is primarily a youth ministry that helps kids learn to ride, repair, and maintain their bikes, but the shop does sell bikes. Both road-worthy bicycles and fixer-uppers are available at some of the most affordable prices in Memphis.
The bike shop offers classes for youth and adults. The appliance store offers job training for volunteers and hires from the neighborhood, though the staff is small with only four employees.
When people need a bike repair, Carkett and his crew take care of it, regardless of their ability to pay for the service.
“We don’t have a membership,” said Carkett. “If somebody comes in and needs help, we help them. We don’t ask for anything back, we just put them back on the road.”
From Church to appliances
Oasis Appliance opened in 2009. It's an extension of Oasis of Hope, which is a faith-based nonprofit in North Memphis that spun off of Hope Church of Memphis in Cordova.
Oasis of Hope focuses on housing; education and employment; and youth, senior, and adult development and enrichment.
The organization partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build single-family homes in the Bearwater-Bickford area of Uptown in North Memphis.
Related: "Building something out of nothing: New housing opportunities spring from once-vacant lot in Uptown"
They run an after school program at the Bickford Community Center that serves around 90 kids every day. They also founded the AngelStreet Choir for girls in North Memphis.
Angel Street in Uptown from High Ground News on Vimeo.
The appliance store partners with The Wesley Foundation, which is a local United Methodist campus ministry. Proceeds from the bike and appliance stores support Oasis of Hope ministries and outreach.
Driver said the store relies on donations from individuals, nonprofits, other secondhand stores, and businesses including FedEx and Office Interiors of Memphis.
“A lot of the things [FedEx] donated to us, we turned around and donated to the high school and middle school programs at Oasis,” said Driver.
The store's staff are currently preparing for tax season, which is their busiest season.
“It starts around mid-January and generally lasts until late March. Summers are big in refrigerators but everything else is a bit slower,” said Driver.
Booth said business pick ups again in November and December as people shop for stoves to cook Thanksgiving and Christmas meals.
The store was almost permanently closed after a fire in August 2016.
"It didn’t do a lot of damage from a destruction standpoint but it smoked up everything," said Driver. "Belz Enterprises owns the building and considered it a lost cause.”
Drive said Belz Enterprises changed their minds when they realized the shop provided a unique service and filled important needs in North Memphis.
“Hope Church and the Belz company came together and gave us the money to renovate, and that’s what you see here today,” said Driver.
The store reopened in October 2017.