Minnesotans can finally bring the piles accumulating in garages and storage rooms to thrift stores without an hourslong wait.
Nearly all of the thrift and secondhand stores are now reopened after stay-home restrictions surrounding the coronavirus forced them to shutter from March to late May.
And they now report a more steady flow of traffic to drop off items. Those that have been open are reporting stronger sales than last year but with fewer customers, so several are offering sales to increase business.
One has expanded. Habitat for Humanity ReStore in New Brighton added 50% more space after a neighboring business vacated.
“Due to COVID, we couldn’t really plan for a gangbusters grand reopening with a brass band and balloons,” said Pete O’Keefe, ReStore director.
The Minneapolis ReStore reopened later because of minor damage from protests in the area. Both stores are discounting everything 20% through Labor Day.
Representatives at Goodwill, Arc’s Value Village and Salvation Army, the largest of the Twin Cities nonprofit thrift stores, report that wait times for drop-off in the past week rarely exceeded 15 minutes.
“Our epic donations surge has leveled out now and donors can expect 15-minute max wait at Richfield, and just a few minutes at New Hope and Bloomington donation doors,” said Molly King, marketing manager for Arc’s Value Village stores.
Many retail shops, including thrifts, have been slow to reopen as they navigate mandated safety precautions for customers and employees. And donating is not as easy as before, with limits on hours and merchandise accepted.
Old School by Steeple People in Minneapolis opened last week but reduced its hours and accepts donations only on Wednesdays.
Assistance League Thrift Shop in Richfield reopened Wednesday with shorter hours. It also will likely not accept donations until August because the store is overstocked after being closed in the spring.
The store also has other precautions. With permission, customers’ hands are sprayed with sanitizer upon entering.
“We’re being overly cautious,” said shop manager Dana Badgerow. “We’re an all-volunteer organization and to keep our volunteers safe, we’re only doing two-hour shifts.”
Tech Dump in Golden Valley, which accepts used electronics to recycle or resell at little or no cost, now accepts only credit cards. No cash is accepted at the store, which saw record drop-offs in June.
St. Vincent de Paul in St. Paul is back in business, but not the Minneapolis store. Manager Julene Maruska estimates it will be back in August, but she remains tentative. Donations are also on hold.
“Things change week to week, but as of now we aren’t taking any donations,” she said. “We’ve suspended our pickup service too, but hope to resume in August. Call ahead because my crystal ball is not functioning right now.”
Half-Price Books is limiting the amount of items brought in to sell because of a smaller staff and quarantine requirements.
In May, donors sat in their cars for up to two hours and lines of cars snaked around the block at Arc’s Value Village. The store is still trying to manage drop-offs. They are accepted only from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily.
The Goodwill store on University Avenue in St. Paul is still closed after damage caused by rioting after the police killing of George Floyd on Memorial Day. It’s expected to reopen in mid-August, according to Brent Babcock, chief sales and marketing officer for Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota.
As in the retail sector as whole, several thrift stores will not reopen because of the economics of COVID-19. This follows the closure of several secondhand stores in the past few years, including Savers in Minneapolis and Bloomington, Valu Thrift in St. Paul and the Arc’s Value Village location in St. Paul.
The Salvation Army, which operates 10 Twin Cities locations, has decided not to reopen its locations in Cloquet, Morris, Faribault and Fairmont. “We couldn’t see a way to profitability in those stores after COVID,” said Dan Furry, communications director for the Northern Division.