toy bus

Photo by Mike Hanks

Toys of yesteryear occupy shelves of Heart and Home Emporium in Bloomington.

The glory days of Dayton’s department stores and their seasonal Santa Bears are long gone, but the plush toys that were sold each winter for more than two decades still find their way to store shelves on a recurring basis, including many secondhand stores.

And that’s the case at Heart and Home Emporium, which opened recently at Normandale Village Shopping Center in Bloomington. It’s a thrift store, it’s full of secondhand goods, and it has a den of Santa Bears representing the 24-year history of the plush toy.

Owners Chris Hall and Brian Jensen have a wide array of home goods, furniture, collectibles and antiques and many other treasures alongside the Santa Bear collection inside their store. What sets their secondhand merchandise apart from other thrift stores?

“We bill ourselves as a boutique thrift store,” Hall said.

The emporium sprouted from the growth of the salvage business they started a few years ago, upon realizing that there was a relatively untapped source of secondhand merchandise in the competitive thrift business.

The duo, members of the Eagan Fire Department for more than a decade, respond periodically to medical calls. Some of those calls were to the homes of seniors who may require assisted living arrangements due to their health issues and therefore will never return to their home, or the decades of home furnishings and personal belongings they had collected, Hall explained.

Between the growing population that requires assisted living and empty nesters downsizing, the duo realized that the homeowners or their families may need help in removing and disseminating the contents of a house or apartment. They found a few test cases and helped remove the contents of residences simply to analyze the value, with an eye toward monetizing the service. Realizing their service could be turned into a business, they formed Heart and Home Cleanout.

In responding to a request for service, the duo analyzes the labor required to empty a residence, and costs associated with transporting and disposing of items, accounts for the resale value of contents they’ll keep and provides a quote for their service, Hall said.

Small jobs can be wrapped up in less than a day. Removing the contents of an entire home – particularly one where the homeowner has lived for decades – can be a multi-day job, and, as it turns out, a complex process.

Part of the company’s mission is to keep as much as possible out of landfills, he said.

Scrap metal or other material that can be recycled is distributed as appropriate, items the duo plans to sell goes to a storage space. Initially, their inventory was sold primarily through online auctions and online advertising, but the inventory continued to accumulate, and having a retail space to display and sell the items that were difficult to sell through online ads became a necessity.

Seeking space close to their Eagan homes, and preferring a mall configuration that attracts shoppers to a variety of businesses, the duo found the space they desired in west Bloomington, according to Hall.

With more inventory than sales space, the back of the emporium is one of multiple storage spaces. The men take the time to clean anything that needs it prior to placing it on the sales floor.

Board games old and new, vinyl records and 8-track tapes are among the vintage items that can be found at the emporium. Vinyl has rebounded as a retro means of listening to music, but even the maligned 8-track format has its devotees, according to the owners.

If an item can be repaired and sold rather than scrapped, they’ll do that too, they noted.

Setting prices for vintage dishware and imported pottery requires research, and because of the time and investment devoted to preparing merchandise for sale, Heart and Home is not the lowest-price thrift store in the area, but most of the merchandise is below market value, Hall explained.

At its core, it’s a thrift store, but the owners are aiming to offer a more upscale experience in catering to a different clientele. “Presentation is important,” Hall said.

The store is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. The store is at 5119 W. 98th St., on the eastern side of Normandale Village Shopping Center.

Information about the cleanout service and emporium, including photos of the store inventory, is available online at heartandhomecleanout.com.

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