Thrift shop a friendly oasis for the little guy

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As this economic catastrophe drags on, we stretch each and every buck possible. A smart dollar-saver is your friendly neighborhood thrift store. In the Twin Cities, for instance, there’s the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop.

Recently my attention was drawn to the Minneapolis location at 2939 12th Ave. South. Not a half-bad spot to shop at, period, even if we weren’t in this depression everyone keeps calling a recession.

In the best or worst of times, a penny saved is a penny earned. Accordingly, spending at Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop makes sense.

Walking in the door, you’re favorably impressed. It’s no ramshackle junk shop staffed by the personality-challenged. Indeed, the display racks and customer service — how about having a personal touch — improve on bargain-based department stores.

The place is organized, immaculate. Personnel are courteously efficient. The place offers practical goods that help make ends meet, from clothes to TV sets and stereos, computers, books, dishes, knick-knacks and what-all. And, all the merchandise is in good condition.

Another great thing about Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop is that it’s a bona fide anomaly, a case of the good guys winning for once in this climate where businesses are biting the dust left and right.

Store manager Wayne Bugg is at a loss to explain how his shop keeps its head so well above water. Not only has he avoided having to hand out pink slips, but employees also have seen raises.

On sitting down to chat with Bugg, though, you realize that attitude likely comes into play here.

One thing for certain, it doesn’t hurt. I comment that, odd as it may sound, you can just about feel a positive vibe in the store as soon as you step in off the street.

“I hear that a lot,” Bugg says. “[It] separates us from some other places. I like to call it our niche, that at home-type feeling.” He’s quick to add, “Also, we are believers. This organization is faith-based.

So, with us believing in God and, when people come to the door, that it’s our duty to serve, that’s what we do.”

It’s done, however, very low key. No need to be afraid a hallelujah chorus’ll greet you. And, you’ll be served just as professionally if you never spent a minute of your life in church. There’s just human warmth in the air.

Wayne Bugg carries an appreciable amount of said warmth about his person. He’s a tall, good-looking guy with an easygoing demeanor and a ready smile.

Of course, being a nice fellow isn’t everything, pursuant to which Bugg has an associate’s degree in business administration from Minneapolis Community and Technical College and is going for his bachelor’s at Metropolitan State University. A most effective combination — palatable personality and business savvy.

The store is plugged into and thereby empowers the community. “All our employees come out of the community,” Bugg says. “In fact, two of them live within a couple blocks.” He notes that as a principle, the parent entity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, is a national undertaking to even the odds for those who need a financial leg up.

“We don’t set up in [well-to-do] neighborhoods,” Bugg points out. “This area, within the last [several] years, has spruced up a bit because of the Midtown Exchange Building. Before that, this area was known for drug dealing and prostitution.”

Beating City Hall to the punch, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop preceded gentrification, hiring people who wanted to make a legal living and setting an example other businesses in the area were free to follow.

A success story that bucks the odds, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop is just what the doctor ordered for these times of bailing out one mismanaged corporation after another. It’s about doing something at the grassroots.

“A lot of neighbors shop here,” Bugg states. “To them, it’s their Marshall Field’s, where they can come with their extra dollars to help with other things in the budget. Rent. Food.” In short, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop helps the little guy and gal at a time when we all need it.

The Minneapolis St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop, 2939 12th Ave. South (612-722-7882), is near the #14 bus line and not far from the #5 — if you can’t walk a few blocks, catch a #21 on Lake St. practically to the shop’s front door. There’s a St. Paul location at 461 7th St. W. (651-227-1332). At the website www.svdpusa.org you’ll find a laundry list of services the Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to dhobbes@spokesman-recorder.com.

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