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Amid high prices, resale still offers a good deal, Grand Forks thrift store managers say

Kelley Palmiscno, owner of Picks, suspects that overall, more people are turning to resale and thrift stores to find a good deal. “I think people are getting a little bit thriftier,” she said.

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Steve and Kelley Palmiscno, owners of Picks on South Washington Street, carry a dresser out for a customer Friday, Nov. 18, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – As prices for new items in traditional retail stores remain high, Kelley Palmiscno says the low prices and unique items at Picks, a curated resale store in Grand Forks, are what continue to draw customers to her business.

“Right now is an excellent time for a store like ours, just with the economy and how expensive everything is,” said Palmiscno, the store’s owner. “We try to keep our prices low.”

She suspects that overall, more people are turning to resale and thrift stores to find a good deal.

“I think people are getting a little bit thriftier,” she said. “I see a lot more people shopping at thrift stores than ever before.”

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Palmiscno opened Picks in 2014 with a goal of creating a store where people can afford to buy unique pieces of furniture and home decor. Today, the store has 14 vendors that sell a mix of vintage, antique and refurbished decor, collectibles and furniture. Most of the items in Picks are used, but some vendors sell new locally made items.

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“Most people are going to buy their ‘needs’ versus their ‘wants,’ but they can come into our store and get the ‘wants’ because we’re a lower price,” she said.

The store is open Thursday through Saturday every other week, and between openings is rearranged to give returning shoppers a new experience every time they walk through the doors.

While the vendors at Picks sell a wide variety of items, Palmiscno and her husband specialize in refurbished furniture. They comb thrift stores and estate sales for vintage treasures and rescue discarded furniture from the side of the road and dumpsters.

“There’s not anything that we can actually put on the floor as is – it all needs help,” said Palmiscno.

After finding furniture, Palmiscno and her husband repair pieces themselves, often replacing parts of furniture with scraps from other pieces, adding legs to make small pieces more functional in a modern home and, as a last resort, painting surfaces too damaged to leave bare.

Because of the work put into refurbishing furniture and curating the store, prices at Picks run higher than a thrift store, but Palmiscno says the refurbished furniture she sells is priced similar to low-quality, mass-produced new furniture.

Palmiscno says each year Picks has been open, she has seen an increase in sales. Despite today’s tough economy, people continue to buy furniture at the store.

“I don’t know if it's because (the price of) furniture in the retail stores is so high or they just feel the need to recycle and reuse what’s already out there,” said Palmiscno. “I think it’s maybe a little of both.”

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St. Joe’s Thrift Store in Grand Forks also has seen an increase in sales in recent years. Mickey Munson, executive director of St. Joseph Social Care, the charitable organization funded by the thrift store, says sales at the store have increased between 15% and 20% each year since he started in 2019.

“I think people are looking for alternatives to full retail price, and thrifting obviously provides that,” said Munson.

Tucked into a neighborhood near downtown Grand Forks, he says the store is “cleverly hidden” so efforts to let community members know the thrift store is there have also helped the store gain traction.

The number of donations to St. Joe’s Thrift Store keeps up with the demand for items, said Munson, and the store is selective with the items it accepts for donations. Donors are always asked if an item still has life in it and if the donor would be comfortable giving it to a friend or family member.

“If they can answer ‘yes’ to those questions, then it’ll serve us well,” said Munson.

At 701 Thrift on Gateway Drive, owner Paula Valgren says sales are down. She bought the thrift store around five years ago and says recently, people have been saving more money.

“I’ve heard from people that used to go out thrifting every day and hit all the thrift stores that they don’t do it that often anymore because of the price of gas,” said Valgren.

However, she thinks thrift stores have a bright future and expects to see more old, yet high-quality, items donated in the future.

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“I don’t think people are putting as much stuff in their houses as they used to,” she said. “I’m thinking there’s going to be more donated to the thrift stores because grandkids don’t want it.”

Palmiscno thinks it will only get harder for resellers to find quality, unique pieces in the future.

“I think the good stuff is all going to be gone or people are going to hang on to it,” she said. “It’s going to be really hard to source.”

But for now at Picks, the finds are good, people are looking for a deal and prices remain low.

“We’re very proud of that,” she said. “We love when people are able to come in and get the things they want to decorate their home. It’s not a necessity, it’s just something that makes you feel good.”

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESS
Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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