Used is the new new. Fueled by the mass appeal of recycling, treasure-hunting sites like Ebay and Craig’s List; DIY trends and hipster chic, the resale movement has brought second hand to the first row of savvy style. All over the Twin Cities, thrift shops are hot. And Arc’s Value Village is ahead of the curve, recognized as Best Thrift Store in 2014 by both City Pages and Minnesota Women’s Press.
Last year the nonprofit doubled the size of its popular Value Village store at Midland Shopping Center in New Hope. Next month Arc opens its fifth Twin Cities store at another Kraus-Anderson shopping center, Valley West, in Bloomington. Laurel Hansen is director of The Arc’s Thrift Business, and provided some insight into Arc’s success and the growth of the thrift industry.
Q: What prompted the expansion at Midland Arc?
Hansen: Prior to expanding, The Arc’s New Hope store was the smallest of our thrift stores. The store lacked the expansive feeling of our other stores, where customers had grown accustomed to wide aisles, big departments, and many check out lanes and dressing rooms. We knew we needed to expand and renovate our New Hope store in order to represent our brand. The store is now around 20,000 s.f., in the same size range as our other stores.
Q: Besides more space, what were you trying to accomplish with the expansion?
Hansen: One of our main goals was to expand our work space for volunteers to participate. Now we can and do accommodate volunteer groups from the community (churches, schools, businesses, civic organizations) of 50, 60, 70+ people!
The expansion also allowed us to grow our furniture department. Now we are able to accept donations of quality furniture items. We also have added brand new mattresses, which by the way are very comfortable!
Q: What were your challenges in the expansion?
Our biggest challenge was remaining open during the renovation and expansion, but we did it! Thanks to our hard working staff and volunteers, and patient and loyal customers, who were very understanding that construction meant it wasn’t “business as usual” last year. Immediately after the project was completed, everyone acknowledged that it was worth the hardship for such a beautiful outcome. Kraus-Anderson Construction did an excellent job completing the project, it turned out wonderfully!
Q: The store remained open throughout construction. How did you accommodate customers during this time?
Hansen: Luckily, the expansion was newly added-on space, so the construction could be contained until completed. As the original space was renovated, the team moved fixtures around until the improvements were completed. KA provided an empty store front for our staff and volunteers to receive, sort, and prepare donations while the back room was under construction. It was a major coordination effort, but we survived and thrived!
Q: What makes the New Hope market a good fit for your store?
Hansen: Arc’s Value Village opened in New Hope in 1993, and immediately the community supported our organization with donations and volunteers. (The store has been at Midland since 1998). This has continued through the years, and donors have flocked to our new drive-thru Donation Center at Midland Center. Volunteers are an integral part of our nonprofit business, around half of the people you see working in the store are volunteers. The money we raise at Arc’s Value Village goes back into the community, serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Our thrift stores also provide work experience opportunities for people with disabilities.
Q: Talk about preparations for your new store at Valley West.
Hansen: Arc’s Value Village Bloomington opens this November at Valley West Shopping Center, another Kraus-Anderson property. The Arc intended to open a fifth store, and our goal was to find a location that was south of our other four stores. We are encouraged that the busy traffic on France and Old Shakopee Road will mean another busy Arc thrift store. The store will feature the same great offerings, including our stylist offering personal shopping appointments, our Village Rewards program, and our drive-thru Donation Center.
Q: What changes have you seen in your time at Arc?
Hansen: I started with The Arc over 25 years ago, when there was only the Richfield flagship store. I quickly moved into store management, and moved into my current role as business director 15 years ago. The expansion from one location to five is our biggest advancement. Overall, the thrift business industry has exploded, and we are proud to be a part of the “resale movement”.
Q: Describe the Arc customer. How has your market demographic changed or evolved?
Hansen: Our shopper remains a brand- and value-driven female shopper. But the diversity of thrift shopping has greatly expanded to all ages, women and men, young people and older people. Everyone likes to thrift! The focus on reuse, and being environmentally responsible, supports the growth of thrift shopping. Arc’s Value Village shoppers like our stores because we are selective in stocking only great quality merchandise. We have an eye for fashionable finds for shoppers and their homes.
Q: How has the DIY craze and recycling fueled the popularity of your stores? Do you ever bring in any demonstrations on DIY or reclaimed materials?
Hansen: This year, we hosted a “Fix It Clinic” at our New Hope store , in partnership with Hennepin County Environmental Services, to show people how to fix and reuse household items. In the past, we received a “Green Guardian” grant that helped us increase our ability to recycle- we recycle textiles, paper, books, metals, and hazardous materials. We have occasionally presented demonstrations, including reuse crafting, organizing, decorating, all from thrifting.
Q: What are the more popular departments at your Arc’s Value Village store?
Hansen: Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores are known throughout the community for Halloween and Christmas shopping. Our Halloween Boo-tique is a Halloween headquarters, featuring used and new costumes, plus new items including makeup, wigs, accessories, and decorative items, for one stop shopping. Our Merry Thriftmas Holiday Shop opens November 2, and we feature holiday decorations and gifts, over 100,000 items!
Customers rave about our “Haute Spot”, where they find the best labels, brand new items, designer goods. And our home décor department always has something to offer, including colorized endcap displays, collectibles, glassware, and interior design treasures.
Q: To what do you attribute Arc’s growth?
Hansen: Community support enables Arc’s Value Village Thrift Stores to grow. We have wonderful community partners. Individuals and groups who volunteer, households and businesses who donate. We’re a member of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce. Local schools send students to complete their community service at our stores. Arc’s Value Village is a true “community center”. The City of New Hope staff and elected officials, including Mayor Kathy Hemken, have been incredibly supportive.
Because of the success of The Arc’s thrift stores, people with developmental disabilities receive the support they need. I would encourage anyone with a developmental disability, or someone in their family, to reach out to The Arc for help. It can make a difference, and The Arc offers a lifetime of service.
Q: What distinguishes Arc’s Value Village from other thrift stores?
Hansen: Arc’s Value Village is local, nonprofit, and focused on providing a great experience for shoppers and donors. We replenish thousands of items daily, so customers want to shop frequently. Fashion is our forte, with our “Haute Spot” better quality apparel department, and our stylists providing personal shopping appointments. And our Village Rewards program, where customers can earn rewards for shopping, donating, and volunteering. It’s just a really nice, clean, organized, and fun place to shop.
Midland Shopping Center’s grand reopening celebration happens Saturday, Oct. 11 from 10 AM- 2 PM. For more information on The Arc’s services, stores and volunteer opportunities, visit www.arcgreatertwincities.org.