From the outside the building resembles a garage more than a store, but don't let appearances fool you. With everything from antiques to last year's fashions every step inside Lodi's newest resale shop is an adventure.
Jennie Larsen and Richard Boehnen, co-organizers of the non-profit Prairie Valley Resale Store, were amazed how quickly their store filled up.
"It's been very successful, through donations and support from the community," Boehnen says about the business that opened April 1. "It's what I thought it would be but I thought it would take longer to get there, a little further down the road."
The idea for a resale shop first came to Boehnen in November 2008. After volunteering with St. Jude Children's Hospital he decided to find his own way to give back to Lodi and surrounding communities. He contacted his long-time friend Larsen and the ball started rolling.
"I got a hold of Jennie and painted her a picture of what I wanted and she said 'count me in'," Boehnen says. "She took care of the business aspect and everything just started falling into place like it was meant to be."
Boehnen and Larsen's goal for the store is to help children in need throughout the local area through various charities Foundation and other programs. All profits remaining after rent and other costs are donated to these funds.
Children's medical needs are the duo's top priority but they'll also help with other needs. They have donated resale items for a raffle to raise money for a student ambassador program to Australia, provided clothes and personal effects for emergency foster family situations, and most recently provided a TTY device for a 14-year-old deaf child.
A local family of seven can also eat breakfast, lunch and dinner together thanks to a generous donation from Boehnen and Larsen.
"We donated a beautiful dining room table, instead of a table for two, to a grandmother who is raising her six grandchildren. She felt it was important that they all sit around the table when they ate their meals," Larsen says. "She put a request up on Craigslist.com and Richard caught it and her wish was fulfilled."
Helping those in need
Hanging on the wall behind the counter at the Prairie Valley Resale Store is a board showing how money raised from donations is being spent. The list includes Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, Children's Diabetes Foundation and their own children's medical needs for surrounding communities fund.
"We don't care if the child is in Poynette, DeForest, wherever. It would be cruel to say just funds for Lodi," Larsen says. "No child should be dying from cancer. We can't begin to raise enough money to cure cancer but maybe we can make it more comfortable if it has to happen."
Larsen says anyone interested in donating a few hours of their time or know of a child who is in need can stop by the store at 177 S. Main St.
"We're hoping that we'll hear from churches, etc... who needs our help," she says. "You just have to get the word out that that is what you're waiting on. This is why we are doing this, this is why we are here."
The resale store has also struck up an alliance with the Lodi Area Food Pantry. If the need arises Larsen says the food pantry will give families vouchers that can be used to purchase clothing, furniture and other items from the resale store.
Larsen says it's important to have these groups locally because families could be on the waiting list of larger organizations for months.
"What's nice about working in our local community is that we don't have a long list," Larsen says. "We can take care of people immediately."
Everyday is different
Both Boehnen and Larsen agree that the resale store changes every day. With low pricing they are able to move a lot of merchandise in a shorter amount of time.
"Pricing is key at our resale store," Larsen says. "Having more $1.59 items allows our customers to clothe their children and equip their homes easier."
Larsen says with today's economy, the need to reuse, recycle and restore is becoming more prevalent.
"People's pocket books are very tight right now and that's where we come in," she says.
Donating to resale stores such as Prairie Valley also saves people time, money and the fuss of holding garage sales. She says by donating unwanted items customers can avoid the hassle of gathering items, pricing them, and sitting outside for hours hoping for customers and good weather. Plus, since Prairie Valley Resale Store is a 501c3 non-profit all donations are tax deductable.
The Prairie Valley Mercantile Store is the 100th member of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce and Boehnen and Larsen couldn't be happier.
"We are thrilled to be a part of the Chamber of Commerce," Larsen says. "Now we are a true part of the active business community."
They also say being part of the organization gives them more credibility when dealing with outside communities.
"It really broadens our ability to be able to go to other communities and help," Boehnen says. "Now they can call the Chamber of Commerce and make sure we're legitimate."
To the future
Boehnen and Larsen have a lot of plans for the future of their business, most pressing is a bigger building. Their current space doesn't allow for larger items such as furniture to be set out for purchase except for one at a time.
They are also hoping by next year to have the space to hold community education programs. A variety of classes would include planting a garden, cooking, and sewing to reupholstering furniture.
"It would be a big dream to have a larger place for the store but utilize this place as an education center," Larsen says. "There are skills that the middle generation has lost touch with such as how to sew."
The Prairie Valley Resale Store, 177 S. Main St., is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The store is closed on Sunday. If interested in volunteering or for more information stop by the store during business hours.