Bargains lurk on shelves of the six GF thrift shops

We'll call her Alice because that isn't her name. She's a teenager who wanted a new formal for a summer party. Her parents said they wouldn't pay for yet another dress.

We'll call her Alice because that isn't her name. She's a teenager who wanted a new formal for a summer party. Her parents said they wouldn't pay for yet another dress.

So, Alice scoured the thrift stores. Some of them had put their formalwear away after prom. Some are keeping it out for summer weddings. Alice found a beautiful red gown at the Goodwill Store on 36th Ave. S. When she took it into the fitting room and tried it on, it fit her to a T. The price tag was an unbelievable $3.

Alice had the kind of a find that keeps people coming back to check out the thrift shops of Grand Forks when they want something but are pinched for money. Others go to the shops just to see what they can see. At the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Store on DeMers Avenue, there are rows of summer shoes that never have been worn or are slightly worn. Manager Cheryl Westfall said they are able to buy new goods that haven't sold in a store, which she declined to name, for salvage. She said her store tries to price things as low as possible and below retail.

At all of the stores, furniture sells well. Right now, there is a run on summer clothing, tops and shorts. Each day, the business is an adventure. A lot of TVs and VCRs come in and go out. Also kitchenware. Westfall said they put it out and it doesn't stay long. "They are coming here to buy for less."

Profits go to the corporate office in Minot, where it is used for disadvantaged youth and families at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. "We have grown immensely in the past 50 years," she said. "We started the store in Grand Forks close to 20 years ago."


I noticed a sign in the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch Thrift Shop that says the place is protected by video surveillance. I saw tennis rackets for $1.99, golf clubs and summer tons at bargain prices. There were neckties and belts and a baby stroller. Barbara Bush's memoir was $1.99, and there was a Garrison Keillor book for $2.99.

There were big coffee pots for $3.99 and $4.99. They seemed like just what people need for large groups or bridge clubs. And there was one room full of dishes, baskets pictures and frames. The secondhand stores have fitting rooms so customers can be sure they are buying something that fits.

People often come looking for the glass pots for coffee makers, Nancy Hamilton notices. She's manager of the Goodwill shop at 36th Avenue and S. Washington St., where there are half-price sales on a rotating basis. Clothing with a blue tag might be on sale this week and items with a pink tag next week. It's a six-week rotation to weed out merchandise that does not move.

Summer donations have been good, and business is always good in the fall. The store is busiest on weekends, but on a recent Monday, business was brisk. Profits from the store go to the Easter Seal foundation and families and individuals in need of help.

At The Salvation Army store on S. 31st Street, Jeff Northey sometimes finds things he has never seen before when donations come in. When people donate to the thrift shops such as The Salvation Army, they are given a receipt on which they can declare an estimated value. That is used as a deduction for who want to use it in their income taxes.

Thrift stores with paid staff felt the pinch when the minimum wage went from $5.25 to $7.25 an hour. But many of the shops count on varying amounts of volunteer help.

At St. Vincent DePaul on Eighth Avenue S., there is an army of volunteer helpers who sort and staff the thrift store and also stock the shelves for the food pantry in the rear of the store. St. Vincent has a store where people can shop for their needs rather than be given food they might not use. The store is run mainly by volunteers, and people in need can make two visits before they are referred to social service agencies.

On a walk through the thrift shop, there were toys and scarves and summer hats. There was glassware and clothing. Some furniture and items for infants. There were toys and an ever-popular book corner.


"If it wasn't for our volunteers, we couldn't do it," said Renee Steffan, store manager.

"Everyone around here pitches in to do the work. We all clean the toilets."

Beyond the thrift shop and food store, there are rooms for sorting and storage as well as a couple of houses that serve as shelter for people in emergencies.

Reach Hagerty at or (701) 772-1055.

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