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Retailer spotlight: St. Vincent de Paul

Exterior of thrift store

St. Vincent de Paul Associate Executive Director Wayne Bugg describes the reuse store as the “Cheers version of the thrift store, where everybody knows your name.” He tells the story of one warehouse employee who comes from a difficult background. Seeking a paycheck, he also found a purpose, and a joy in serving others. “He’s found a sweet spot in his life. Many of our customers are blessed with him being here. Many [employees] didn’t think they could find such joy in service. We are positively impacting our community.”

Bugg has been with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul for 24 years, and he, too, had a rough start, growing up in a high-poverty, high-crime area on the south side of Chicago. He was expelled from high school, and his parents struggled with drug addiction, so he decided he needed to find “greener grass,” and moved with his aunt and her family to Minneapolis. “Our next-door neighbor worked for St. Vincent de Paul and offered me a job,” he says. “I moved furniture and saw people working for free – volunteers. I didn’t understand the concept. But the more I was around them, the more I understood. Their sense of purpose. We are in the greatest area of need, even though it’s not the biggest financial benefit.”

Bugg’s story doesn’t end there: Over time, the president of St. Vincent de Paul encouraged Bugg to get his GED, then his associate’s degree in business administration, and finally his bachelor’s in business management. “I’ve seen the heart of this organization. I feel committed to being here. I fell in love with those who had loved me first.”

Bookshelves full of books

Most of St. Vincent de Paul’s customers are people who need good quality for a low price. But Bugg has noticed there is a group of people “committed to not adding to the waste problem that we have. They are buying and even repurposing stuff. One guy makes bags out of clothes, another guy who buys ties makes vests or suit jackets. A lot of people are conscious of waste, so they would rather buy here than buy new. Truth be told, older items are better quality, anyway, especially furniture. With some new furniture, you use it one time, you move and the shelf will fall apart. Stuff we have that’s 10 or 20 years old will continue to last past your next move.”

Bugg says St. Vincent de Paul’s clothing is high quality, with donations coming from church collections in addition to the donations from the community. The store carries name brands for a low price, which he says is a big deal: “Kids in this community can get it, they won’t get teased and they can focus on their studies.”

Couch and chair and coffee table

St. Vincent de Paul also has a large selection of furniture, including dressers and couches, and offers residential pickup. Bugg highlights what he calls customer favorites, such as books (“they’re very organized”), toys, housewares, dishes, and knickknacks from people’s collections, such as Beanie Babies (“So many quaint items that people can use to fill in their collection that they haven’t finished yet.”)

With Senior Mondays and Dollar Day Tuesdays, St. Vincent de Paul has its regulars, but there is also a steady influx of new customers. “That encourages me that the work we’re doing almost secretively, not a lot of advertising, people are taking notice and supporting us,” says Bugg. “So, we appreciate it.”

The Minneapolis store is across the street from a homeless encampment, and St. Vincent de Paul’s staff tries to help the homeless without enabling negative behavior – help can be as simple as giving them a change of clothes whenever they need it. Bugg says, “There are stories that need to be told about our area, and our world. There’s stuff out there, people do care. Humanity has hope.”

“We are the community’s thrift store. There might be other stores that come in and leave but, if someone is in need of pants or a shirt, they know they can come here because we’ll give it to them (St. Vincent de Paul has a voucher program). So just support us as we support the community.”

Staff of St Vincent de Paul

Says Bugg: “St Vincent de Paul is so beneficial to me and my community, it’s amazing.”

The movement to waste less and live better encourages residents to buy used goods, repair their items, refuse unnecessary “extras,” and rent or borrow used gear rather than buying new – not only to reduce waste and preserve natural resources, but to save money. By pledging to waste less and live better, residents receive valuable waste reduction tips and regular email alerts about upcoming sales and events. Learn more and subscribe today.