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Retailer spotlight: Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

Many reuse retailers have a worthy mission behind their operations and, for Hope Chest Resale Shop, it is helping women who have breast cancer. Having such a purposeful mission means donors are eager to help. Retail operations manager Kathy Tomlinson says serendipitous events take place frequently at Hope Chest: “We’ll need something, and then it’ll show up.”

Hope Chest’s location in Wayzata attracts constant donations of upscale furniture, decorative home accessories and clothing. Says Tomlinson: “Turnaround time is not even an hour, literally, sometimes. Our goal is to get it out of there by the next week” to make room for more merchandise. Hope Chest’s location is ideal for drive-by traffic. “People slam on their brakes” when they see the high-end yard furniture on the front lawn, she says.

Dining room display at Hope Chest

The store caters to a broad clientele: older customers who see things from their childhood, adult children who drive their parents to the store, and a younger crowd drawn in by the store's use of social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. “We talk to our customers, especially younger people: ‘This is a great, green choice for you, you’re not filling the landfill, you’re saving money, you’re reducing costs, helping someone in need – there’s a social and environmental aspect’” to shopping at Hope Chest, Tomlinson says. “People are getting more savvy about our society of consumerism. It’s way out of whack and, since 8 years ago [when I started], I’ve noticed our level of people coming in are younger, and making the conscious, social, green choice.”

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer Foundation gives grants of $500-$1,000 to help pay for urgent needs, such as rent or mortgage, utilities, childcare and transportation, during active treatment. Founder and visionary Barbara Hensley lost her two sisters to breast cancer. She witnessed firsthand the financial challenges that breast cancer patients and their families face that insurance doesn’t cover. After meeting more patients and hearing their stories, Hensley turned heartbreak into action. She left her corporate executive position and founded Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. The foundation averages 225 grants per year. Since its founding in 2001, the foundation has given out more than $2 million, with sales from the Hope Chest Resale Shop helping to support the foundation. Tomlinson says women who’ve been grant recipients will come into the store and tell their story: “It’s a real safe and sacred place. They tell you things you wouldn’t tell in a normal retail store.” Coming from the non-profit world was great training for being empathetic with people face to face, according to Tomlinson. “Everybody has a story. I feel very thankful that things are going so well for our store, really blessed.”

Lamps and pictures at Hope Chest

Hope Chest’s in-store shopping COVID-19 guidelines include wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer, limiting customers to 10 at a time, shortening store hours to create a separation between deliveries and shoppers, maintaining 6 feet between people using stickers on the floor as guides, encouraging people to shop with their eyes rather than handling merchandise, and disinfecting high-touch points in the store regularly.

A part of Hennepin County’s Choose to Reuse program, Join the Circle encourages residents to buy used goods rather than new – not only to reduce waste and preserve natural resources, but to save money. By joining the circle, residents receive useful tips as well as exclusive benefits at participating retailers. You can learn more and Join the Circle today at

Related links

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Hope Chest - Twitter

Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.