Mary Lou Prosin (ARF) Peter Buhl and Steve Carlson (Living Free). Photos by Marshall Smith

Peter Buhl, proprietor of Fern Valley Corner’s Funky Bazaar, has a side business, or rather a nonbusiness literally on the side, called Donation Alley. It is what the name implies — a place where patrons donate goods, often brand new and still in boxes, and other shoppers take what they want, paying what they will, if they can. If they can pay nothing they can still partake of Buhl’s donated selection.

This side business makes no money for Buhl. All money for the donated goods is again donated — to Animal Rescue Friends of Idyllwild (ARF) and to Living Free, Idyllwild’s two rescue facilities.

Since Buhl opened Donation Alley exactly one year ago, supporters have left $1,263 for goods they have taken. On Friday, May 18, Buhl presented both Mary Lou Prosin of ARF and Steve Carlson of Living Free a check for $242. Buhl has already given each organization nearly $375.

Peter Buhl and his Donation Alley.

“Nothing goes to waste,” Buhl said of the flow of donations. “I have a storage unit that stays stocked and there are always goods on the Alley shelves. I’m often surprised by the quality of goods donated — new humidifiers in boxes, Victorian lamps, games and wall heaters. Everything people have brought me has worked.”

Buhl said when children are with parents, he always explains to the kids how the Alley works. “I want them to think this is cool. I tell them the best part is that if they don’t have money, they can still choose things on the shelf. If the parents have money I ask the children to put the money in the box reminding them that all the money goes to help the animals.”

Buhl began Donation Alley because, “I just wanted to do something that made me feel good. I refuse nothing [in the way of donations] other than clothes, which I have no capacity to display,” he said.

When first in Idyllwild about two years ago, Buhl volunteered at Living Free. When he opened Funky Bazaar a year ago he had no more time to volunteer. “I wanted to do something for the animals since I had no time for volunteering,” he said. He said he is grateful for the response to Donation Alley and has many heartwarming stories to tell about how individuals have responded to this project.