Not even Goodwill could match this thrift shop, shoppers say

Waconia American Legion Post 150 wasn’t the only occupant of the building at 233 Olive Street which faces demolition later this summer.

Once Again Thrift Shoppe has operated out of the Legion’s home and former Trinity Lutheran school house for decades providing great deals on household goods, clothing for all ages, books, toys and much more. It started as a Carver County social services-run thrift store until the Legion Auxiliary agreed to take over operation around 2004.

With the 14,000-square-foot brick building slated to go down to make way for a new apartment complex, and the Legion’s new space in the 4 Main building not large enough to accommodate it, the thrift shop will close its doors on June 25.

The Once Again Shoppe stopped taking donations last month and has been selling merchandise at a considerable discount since then. Now, for the past week, remaining merchandise has been free to shoppers until gone. Meanwhile, some of the folding tables, folding chairs, desks, racks and shelves used to operate the store have been sold as both the Legion and the thrift shop must be out of the building by mid-July.

The thrift shop has had an eye out for a new home, but the price of rental space is high and area churches aren’t able to accommodate such an undertaking, store volunteers say, so all items must go.

Both Legion officers and volunteers reflect that the thrift shop was good for Post 150 and good for the community. It helped pay the Legion’s bills during tough times and proceeds were channeled back to local causes.

The thrift shop also was good for individuals facing their own tough times, plus families on a budget and those just looking for good deals.

Volunteers note that the deals were especially good because merchandise was charged for by the bag, not by the item.

Early Once Again Thrift Shoppe organizer and long-time volunteer Marcella Reinke marvels that she once saw a customer artfully pack four-bags worth of items into a single bag.

“I’m going to miss the shop. It’s not easy to get good clothes much less a bag full,” another shopper Dixie Gravelle said in a Facebook post. “Not even Goodwill can match these ladies!”

Other long-time shoppers say they will miss the store too, and some recall buying their kids clothes at Once Again and now clothes for their grandkids. The combination of great prices and a huge volume of donated items kept a steady supply flow to needy customers, and surplus items went to other charities as well.

“Now that’s recycling and a real global community effort,” one shopper called Once Again. “Where else can one find such a variety of clothing, toys, shoes, books and housewares at such an affordable price!”

By the bag sales also made volunteers jobs easier, the say, because they didn’t have to price items, just sort them – although there was plenty to sort.

Long-time volunteer Delora Rolf notes the community has been very generous in donating items – good quality merchandise at that, some items like new with the price tag still on them. And volunteers observe they always saw a flow of merchandise after weekend garage sales in the spring and fall. So, thrift customers were both shoppers and those who dropped off unwanted items, adds volunteer Shirley Lehrke.

Until recently those items filled several rooms on the second floor of the Legion building – space that over the years also has housed city and county offices, a barbershop, dance studio and tax service to name a few.

Once Again Thrift Shoppe has historically been open from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and will be throughout the month until all items are gone. Last week, volunteers were reminiscing about their time helping customers and the chance to visit over coffee.

“But we work hard, please put that in your story too,” Lehrke laughed.

She, Rolf and other volunteers say that in addition to being good for the Legion and the community the thrift shop was good for them too.

“We help people and we help each other,” Rolf said, noting that many Once Again volunteers are retired.

“After I retired, I said I wasn’t going to work for money again,” added volunteer Essene Grote.

Lehrke says she and other volunteers greatest reward has been seeing “a kid’s eyes light up taking a toy off the shelf” or a young family with a new outfits that they might not normally be able to afford.

After Once Again Thrift Shoppe closes, Reinke and other volunteers echo, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my mornings now.”

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