New Uses Woodbury Showcased in Pioneer Press

New Uses Woodbury was featured in a colorful article  about the growing popularity of reuse stores. Check out the article by Bob Shaw with Pioneer Press

Deb Hauer plopped a box of plates onto the store counter.

“Ooof!” she said. “I am downsizing, big time.”

Hauer is near retirement and moving into a townhome, a move that requires shedding a lifetime of accumulated stuff.

Instead of donating the plates to Goodwill, she was selling them at a for-profit store in Woodbury — New Uses.

The store is one of a wave of new used-goods stores, which sell almost everything that can be owned.

They are popping up in malls, often replacing stores that sell new merchandise. Three used-clothing stores are open in Woodbury — Once Upon a Child, Plato’s Closet and Clothes Mentor — in a mall with no other clothing shops except shoe stores.

“I would say the growth is increasing exponentially,” said Louise Kurzeka, chapter president of the National Association of Professional Organizers, which monitors household recycling stores.

Used goods in America are now a $16 billion industry, according to the data-generating firm First Research. This includes sales from 20,000 thrift stores, antique dealers and consignment shops but not sales at pawn shops or used car or boat dealers.

Kurzeka said the used-goods industry has been increasing by 7 percent annually for the past two years, far more than the retail industry overall.

She said that’s because the Great Recession put financial pressure on homeowners, who are selling their belongings to ease the crunch.

“People are brushing off their bruises and saying: ‘I am in financial trouble. I need to sell my stuff,’ ” Kurzeka said.

In addition, baby boomers are retiring and downsizing. This means selling off the contents of big suburban houses.

“They are moving out of a 3,500-square-foot house into a 1,200-square-foot condo,” Kurzeka said.

Established charities such as Goodwill have long accepted donations of clothing and housewares. Pawn shops pay cash for items with high resale value.

But they have been facing competition from stores selling used books, computers, musical instruments, exercise machines and sports equipment.

Also competing for used goods are the more than 200 consignment shops in the metro area, according to the website Yelp. These shops usually pay the donor when the item is resold.

There are new stores operated by other nonprofits. Savers has opened three warehouse-size stores in the Twin Cities metro area.

Another newcomer is the Found It Estate Store in Bloomington, a used furniture and household goods store. That store, which opened in August, and two others are run by Bridging, a nonprofit group that helps people living in poverty.

A unique type of used-goods store is the ReStore in New Brighton.

It sells donated home construction materials such as lumber, tile, cabinets and carpet.

“It’s what you would find in a Menards or Home Depot,” said Pete O’Keefe, ReStore operations manager.

Only one item is not accepted. “We do not take used toilets. We could have filled the old Metrodome with old used toilets,” said O’Keefe.

He said ReStore saves money for consumers and helps the environment.

“This is a green solution to keep things out of landfills,” he said. “About 10 years ago, contractors did not care. Now, they have a green mind-set.”

ReStore is owned by Habitat for Humanity, and O’Keefe said revenue from one year of sales at the New Brighton location pays for the construction of five Habitat homes.

The biggest used-goods presence in suburban malls are the for-profit businesses. Many, including New Uses, pay customers cash in advance for their household items.

New Uses Woodbury franchisee placing framed painting and large vase artwork on the store floor for sale
New Uses WoodburyValeta Cornwell co-owner of new uses, a home resale store in Woodbury, moves items around on Wednesday, November 25, 2015. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

“We have a lot of people coming in and saying they are moving their parents into senior housing,” said Valeta Cornwell, co-owner of the Woodbury store.

In her store, about a third of the floor space is for furniture. The rest is devoted to small appliances, rugs, artwork, slow cookers and home decor items.

Store customer Hauer said she was downsizing, but she couldn’t resist buying a fireplace insert and a wooden stool before she left.

Before she left, she looked around appreciatively. “What a fun place!” she said.

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