Need Fourth of July decor? What about a Coronado themed gift for an out of town guest who’s visiting this summer? How about some nautical decor for your home or a hostess gift for a friend who’s throwing a party? What about a housewarming gift for your new neighbor or a baby gift for one of Coronado’s youngest little residents? Need the perfect necklace and purse to accessorize your dress for a friend’s wedding as well as a memorable gift for the new Mr. and Mrs.? You can find all this and so much more at the non-profit Sand Dollar Too, the best kept secret on all of Naval Air Station North Island!
In the building right past the VADM Martin Fitness Center NAS North Island you’ll find the Sand Dollar Too shop, the sister store to Sand Dollar Collections. Sand Dollar Collections, which is located at Balboa Naval Hospital (part of Naval Medical Center San Diego), and Sand Dollar Too are both operated entirely by volunteers of the Naval Officers’ Spouses’ Club San Diego (NOSC).
Many people who have heard of the Sand Dollar shops assume that the stores are only for those people who are affiliated with the military, whether they be active duty, dependents, or military retirees, but that simply isn’t the case. As long as someone has base access, he or she can shop at either of the Sand Dollar shops. Even if you don’t personally have base access, if you have a friend who can escort you onto base you too can make purchases at the Sand Dollar shops!
Besides the unique array of items sold at both shops, what makes these stores so special is their concept of “A Purchase with a Purpose.” NOSC provides philanthropic support through annual donations to local charities and college scholarships for military families in San Diego County, including Coronado, with the funding from the Sand Dollar shops. According to the most recent NOSC newsletter, “NOSC consistently raises $50,000 to $60,000 each year through the fundraising efforts of the Sand Dollar shops.”
There are approximately 25 volunteers at the Sand Dollar Too, each working at least one shift per month. Because the store is staffed solely by volunteers, it is only open on average 60 hours per month, but when you consider the time it takes behind the scenes to make the shop the huge success that it is, such as displaying and organizing merchandise, volunteers end up contributing close to 100 hours per month.
Currently 9 of the Sand Dollar Too’s volunteers are NOSC board members, and they contribute additional volunteer hours to the organization beyond their time in the store. Many of the volunteers can be found donating their time and efforts to other military organizations, including the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Surface Officers’ Spouses Club, and Helicopter Officers’ Spouses Club, as well as participating in command activities for their active duty members’ current assignments. These volunteers can also be found making contributions throughout Coronado and San Diego in their children’s schools, scout troops, and more.
Caryn Clausen, the store manager of Sand Dollar Too, says, “We’re a great shop to come to for home decor, birthday gifts, change of command gifts, and retirement gifts. We do a lot of special orders. Even a lot of the military community doesn’t realize they can come in and order things specifically with different crests, including ships’ crests and command star; any logo we can pretty much find someone who can put it on glass, on wood, or maybe do stained glass out of it. If they come with an idea, our special orders buyer can work with them to create whatever it is. We can order multiples if someone is looking for gifts for FRGs (Family Readiness Groups); we can order 12, 24, however many. We’ve done special order dish towels and special order mugs. We can really create what they want, or we can try and find it for them.”
Caryn continues, “Our prices are less than what you’ll find out in town because we’re not salaried so we don’t have to worry about paying employees. We buy from the same vendors that you’ll find out in town. We go to the Las Vegas trade show and the Los Angeles trade show. We order from the same people out of the same catalogs. We’re just less expensive for the same items.”
Even though Sand Dollar Too is located in Coronado, they sell both Coronado and San Diego themed items, which include signs, pillows, cutting boards, coasters, and more. There are latitude and longitude signs for both the Crown City as well as San Diego. Volunteers at Sand Dollar Too are aware that not everyone who shops at the store lives in Coronado, and they want to assure shoppers that they will be able to find merchandise that reflects San Diego and the state of California. Caryn says, “We want people outside of Coronado to come shop as well.”
Looking for a place to host your next get-together? “We are happy to host bunco, FRG meetings or breakfasts, and wardroom or spouse functions. You can have a wine and cheese night here. We open the store, and set up some tables on the patio and make it pretty for you. We can open the shop for special shopping occasions. I think that’s something that people don’t know that we’re trying to get out there.”
Both Sand Dollar Too and Sand Dollar Collections are usually open from 10:30-1:30 Monday through Friday of each week. Because the shops are staffed entirely by volunteers though, Caryn suggests checking the Facebook pages of each shop before coming in to shop just in case there are any changes. (See additional information at the conclusion of this article for Facebook pages.) She also suggests liking the Facebook pages to see pictures when new merchandise arrives as well as to get notifications of items on sale. Ideally she would like to start opening the shop on Saturdays, and is hopeful that with more volunteers this will be a possibility someday. Members of NOSC who are interested in volunteering at the Sand Dollar shops can click here for more information.
If you have already visited one of the Sand Dollar shops, don’t assume that there’s no need to visit the other Sand Dollar location. Just because both Sand Dollar shops are run by NOSC does not mean that they necessarily carry the same items, so be sure to check out the shop on North Island as well as the one at Balboa Naval Hospital. What differences can shoppers expect to find when contrasting the two shops? Sand Dollar Too on North Island specializes in home decor matching a variety of themes such as military, nautical, wine, holidays, and the beach, while Sand Dollar Collections at Balboa specializes in novelty holiday items, religious items, books, and items people may need for comfort while staying at the hospital, such as slippers and stuffed animals. While both shops sell scarves and jewelry, Sand Dollar Too focuses on more classic styles of jewelry whereas Sand Dollar Collections offers more of a selection of statement pieces.
Both Sand Dollar Too and Sand Dollar Collections are also proud to offer a selection of hand crafted wood items made by wounded veterans through a program called Turn-Around for Vets. The Woodturners Club of San Diego County teaches wounded veterans how to use machinery to turn ordinary pieces of wood into works of art. This program, which is therapy for the wounded veterans, is free for them and all of the woodturners are volunteers.
From mid-July through mid-August expect some construction right outside of Sand Dollar Too as its parking lot will be expanded. Caryn wants to assure loyal customers that the shop will definitely still be open! Customers may need to temporarily park next door during the expansion, but patrons will still be able to enter the shop through the front and back of the building.
Volunteers at both Sand Dollar shops not only appreciate customers’ patronage, but so do the recipients of all of the scholarships and charitable grants made possible by people who frequent both shops. The Sand Dollar Shops are always adding new merchandise, which means that there’s always a good excuse to stop by to shop for a good cause! For a full list of the $50,000 in scholarships and grants awarded by NOSC this year on May 22, 2016, please see additional information below.
Sand Dollar Too – Naval Air Station North Island
Building 2000 Rogers Road, Coronado, CA 92118
*The shop is located in the building next door to the new gym pool.
Hours: Monday-Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
To view the Facebook page of Sand Dollar Too click here.
Sand Dollar Collections – Naval Medical Center San Diego
Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego, CA 92135
*The shop is located in the Quarter Deck lobby, Building 1, near the flagpole.
Hours: Monday-Friday from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm
To view the Facebook page of Sand Dollar Collections click here.
Some of Sand Dollar Collections’ merchandise for sale at the 2016 Coronado Flower Show: