Whitestone gift shop cares for boro strays

By Joe Anuta

Instead of simply asking for money, Sharon Taylor decided to tap into one of America’s favorite past times to fund her animal rescue organization: shopping.

Taylor runs As You Wish, a boutique gift shop on 14th Avenue in Whitestone, where all the profits go toward helping animals that have been rescued from the streets of Queens.

“When you see an innocent animal come from the street looking bad, abused or just destroyed, you want to help them and get them into a home where their life is turned around,” she said. “People are out there helping trees and the oceans — with me it’s animals. That’s the way it is.”

Taylor, who also works a 9-to-5 job, runs an organization called Silent Animal Voices Echo.

The group, known as SAVE, does not have a building to call its own, but instead works to find foster homes for rescued animals, place them at boarding facilities or turn them over to the medical care of a veterinarian.

The organization also runs on the kindness of volunteers who take the rescued animals into their homes until permanent accommodations can be found.

Patricia McNamara’s specialty is guinea pigs, rabbits and mice, and she currently has about five as house guests.

“I’ve always loved animals,” she said from behind the counter at As You Wish.

McNamara also donates her time to the store, working at the register as a volunteer.

And it is a job that requires serious attention, because in the process of caring for critters the organization has managed to run a pretty popular gift shop.

Taylor receives items from local artists and concerned neighbors as donations. She also scours the city and surrounding area for unique jewelry and handbags, or household items like candle holders or picture frames.

She “has the eye” for what will sell, according to her sister, but is careful not to buy too much of any one item.

“People love to see the variety,” Taylor said. “They come in and ask, ‘Did you get anything new?’”

And because all the profits from the shop go to a good cause, she often gets customers from outside of her target market.

One afternoon, the chimes over the front door rang and a group of giant bikers clad in leather jackets walked into the store and began scrutinizing the purses and knickknacks on display. Beneath the intimidating facade and layers of leather, they were animal lovers and wanted to help out by shopping for their girlfriends, according to Taylor.

“To see these big guys with their black boots and chains walking around my little delicate store was really funny,” she said.

But even with the support of her regular customers and the occasional motorcycle gang, Taylor said the operation has come close to shutting down several times.

Aside from rent and utilities, she racks up thousands in vet bills and boarding costs each month and sometimes has to dip into her personal savings to keep the store afloat.

She has wine and cheese parties and other fund-raisers throughout the year, but also readily accepts donations. Information is available at save.petfinder.org.

The shop is at 150-43C 14th Ave. and open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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