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Economy keeps business buzzing at Thrift Store

The Morris Salvation Army Thrift Store staff includes clerk Diane Hennen, Manager Charlotte Wartner, Field Representative Peggy Kill, Assistant Manager Loretta Borresch and clerk Raelene Reimers.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

There's been a change in management at the Morris Salvation Army Thrift Store, and business is brisk despite the economic downturn.

And with the uptick in traffic in the store, volunteers are needed to help keep pace.

"In the last year we've seen the biggest change," said Charlotte Wartner, who took over as Thrift Store Manager in August. "More people are spending conservatively, and they're coming here for good deals. We've seen a lot of different faces in here."

"That's been surprising, the way the economy has been," said Loretta Borresch, who assumed the Assistant Manager position in September "More people are getting to know us and what's here."

The Salvation Army Thrift Store opened in Morris in 2000, said Peggy Kill, Salvation Army Field Representative.

The current store space on East 7th Street was affordable, and with the University of Minnesota, Morris nearby, Salvation Army officials took the chance, she said.

"We had three years to prove we could make it work," Kill said. "Within the first year, we proved we could."

The Thrift Store, which collects and sells clothing, housewares and some furniture and toys, draws in customers from about a 60-mile radius, Kill said.

The Thrift Store has a reliable and steady customer base, and actually has helped other businesses in Morris rather than hurt them, Kill said.

Shoppers from around the region will come to check out the Thrift Store, then will make a day of it by also stopping to shop at other Morris businesses, she said.

"I truly believe the store is a great asset to the community," Kill said. "People will come in on, say, a Wednesday when it's half-price day, and they'll make the trip worth their while and shop at other places, too. We've been well-received, and the community has been very supportive."

A variety of sales opportunities and a large supply of new and high-quality used items has helped the Thrift Store draw in new and repeat customers, Borresch said.

Donated items are thoroughly checked to ensure that every item put out for sale is in new or almost new condition. Damaged items are not included in the Thrift Store inventory, Borresch said.

"We do have quality stuff here," she said.

Wartner said the Thrift Store's sales also are popular. For example, there is a school sale in August, a coat sale, regular daily specials, as well as the weekly half-price sale each Wednesday.

The community gets into the spirit as well. Morris Area Homecoming featured "Salvo Day," when students are encouraged to wear clothing purchased at the Thrift Store, she said.

On Monday, Oct. 19, a Silent Auction for a used car begins, with bids taken for two weeks before the winning bid is announced.

Various parts of the store are being upgraded, and new carpet was recently installed. More improvements are planned, Kill said.

Volunteer numbers vary from month to month, but including people who work multiple times, there are about 90 volunteers helping at the Thrift Store. And there's plenty to do for those who want to get involved, Wartner said.

The early days, when it wasn't clear if a Thrift Store would make it in Morris, certainly seem like a fading memory.

"After our first year," Kill said, "we were asking ourselves, 'What are we going to do when donations slow down?' Well, they've never slowed down."

Salvation Army Thrift Store hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with donations accepted until 4 p.m. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, with donations accepted until 2 p.m.

People who wish to volunteer can call (320) 589-0483.