By Starrla Cray
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Believe it or not, thrift stores are almost as popular as major department stores.
According to the National Association of Resale and Thrift Shops, 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store in a given year, compared to about 21 percent at a major department store.
At Again & Again in Dassel, it’s almost hard to tell the two apart. The thrift store has shopping carts, glass display tables, mannequins displaying various outfits, and comfortable dressing rooms.
“This is where we love to be every day,” commented Again & Again employee Audrey Oster.
Again & Again has its fifth anniversary mid-April, and the Save & Share Thrift Shop in Cokato celebrated its ninth anniversary in February.
“We go through a lot of stuff; it’s amazing,” said Save & Share volunteer Diane Hanson. “We’ve just been blessed by donors, and we’ve been blessed by shoppers.”
Oster said thrift stores can help fill a void if businesses have closed.
“If someone needs a frying pan or light bulb, we might have what they need, and we can supply it quickly,” she said.
Giving and giving
Thrift stores are often non-profit organizations, using their proceeds to give back to the community.
“So far, more than $400,000 has been donated,” Hanson said, explaining that two-thirds of Save & Share’s profits goes toward international Bible translation and distribution, and one-third is given to Christian organizations in the community.
At Again & Again, all proceeds go toward ProWorks, a non-profit that has been providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities in Meeker County since 1975. The thrift store in Dassel began as a way to help fund the program, and a second store in Litchfield opened two years ago.
“It’s definitely been a successful venture, due to the generosity of the community,” Oster said.
‘It’s like Christmas’
Again & Again relies on both paid staff and volunteers to operate. Ronelle Lundeen serves as manager, and Gerri McWherter and Cheryl Bulua are both employees. Oster’s husband is a regular volunteer, as well as Bev Anderson, Jean Saures, and two high school students.
Save & Share is run entirely by volunteers, including its eight board members. The president and founder is Cokato resident Ann Harmala.
“We have fun working here it is our outlet,” Hanson said. “It’s a chance to get to know people.”
Another perk is seeing the unique treasures that find their way to the store. Items arrive scattered and random, but thrift store workers clean and organize everything into easy-to-find displays.
“It’s like Christmas,” Hanson said. “You open up the box and you don’t know what you’re going to get.”
For more information about Save & Share, call (320) 286-5895. Again & Again can be reached at (320) 626-3031.