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Someplace Safe Thrift Store opening Monday in Morris

Morris’ Someplace Safe Thrift Store at 708 Atlantic Avenue held a special preview sale for Facebook fans on Friday, Aug. 16. The store will open to the general public on Monday, Aug. 19. (Kim Ukura/Sun Tribune)

MORRIS, Minn. -- While many shoppers appreciate the thrill of finding a reasonably-priced treasure while thrifting, the atmosphere in some stores leaves a bit to be desired.

Morris Someplace Safe Thrift Store, which is opening its doors this Monday, hopes to create a boutique shopping experience for customers on a budget as well as offer support for the work that Someplace Safe, a nonprofit organization working to eliminate violence in the region, does in the community.

"A lot of times you go into a thrift store and it's dingy and dirty and smelly, and we don't want that," said Manager Drew Israels-Swenson. "Our philosophy is that it doesn't matter if you're spending $2 on a shirt or $250, you should feel the same way."

Morris' thrift store is Someplace Safe's second retail location. A store opened in Alexandria three years ago and relocated to a new space on Voyager Drive in Alexandria last June. About that time, the search began in earnest to find a location for a second store, said Becki Jordan, Someplace Safe Director of Development.

"Morris is a great town for this ... We're all kind of cheap, which is good, and we're all looking for a bargain," said Israels-Swenson, "whether you're a senior or a college student, in this economy, you want to save money. I think what's going to be great about it is this community definitely needs another retail outlet and will be very supportive of it."

Morris was also selected because the city is centrally-located among the nine counties that Someplace Safe serves. Morris' Someplace Safe office, which opened in 1990, also has a wide base of community support and community partners that the organization could count on for volunteers and other needs.

Although Morris does have one other thrift store, the Salvation Army, Israels-Swenson said they're often overwhelmed by donations: "I think it'll be nice to have two options -- there's more than enough support."

The priority for each store is to help provide items to clients in crisis, individuals or families who may have left their homes without their belongings because their situation was unsafe. After meeting with a Someplace Safe advocate, clients receive vouchers that are good at either thrift store to pick up the essentials that they need.

Israels-Swenson and Assistant Manager Hannah McNally said they want to give the store a boutique feeling by selling quality merchandise and keeping the store open and well organized.

"We ask that people donate what they would want to buy ... because it's a donation, not recycling," Israels-Swenson said. However, even items that stained or not up to the standard for the store will be sold to an organization in St. Cloud that reuses them.

"We've been really lucky with the quality of stuff that we've been getting," said McNally. "It's awesome to have the stuff that we have to help people."

Volunteers from across the community, everywhere from the University of Minnesota, Morris to Stevens County Human Services to members of Lazos, have volunteered to get the store in shape before the grand opening next week.

While the number one goal for the store is to provide service for clients in crisis, profits from the store help fund Someplace Safe and keep the store open. The shop is a regular retail space on main street where anyone is welcome to shop, Jordan said.

Eventually, Jordan said the Morris store will also be able to provide items to clients for other agencies like the Salvation Army and United Way -- the Alexandria store donates thousands of dollars in vouchers to those in need.

Later this year, Israels-Swenson said the store plans to hold workshops related to thrifting, topics like helping college students transition to a professional wardrobe on a budget or budget wedding planning for new brides.

In addition to Israels-Swenson and McNally, the store will likely have two or three additional salespeople. The rest of the work will continue to be supported by volunteers.

"A way that the community can support a retail operation here in town to make sure we succeed isn't just necessarily to shop, but to give a little bit of their time," said Israels-Swenson.