The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 19, 2013

Krohn: Don’t be thrifty with resale shops

The book of Deuteronomy may have been referring to thrift stores with the “prosper and multiply” saying.

You can’t turn up a street in Mankato without running into a thrift store. They’ve gone from tiny, shabby shops to large, clean, organized stores.

And people love them.

The number of thrift stores has grown 7 percent a year in recent years with more than 25,000 resale, consignment and not-for-profit resale shops in the United States.

Their power is beginning to rival traditional stores. About 17 percent of Americans shop at a thrift store during a given year, just shy of the 21 percent who shop in a major department store in a given year.  

Thrift stores are the perfect business. They give shoppers good deals on clothes and other items that are often like new, they promote reuse rather than land-filling, and many help charities raise money. And people enjoy the treasure-hunt aspect of the stores.

So it was puzzling when the Burnsville City Council recently killed a thrift store project.

ARC of Minnesota, a popular chain of thrift stores whose proceeds benefit people who have mental disabilities, wanted to buy and renovate a building to open a new store in Burnsville.

The city had raised a number of site issues with ARC — the kind of issues that routinely come up with new developments. ARC made adjustments that satisfied the issues.

But the council, in a 3-2 vote, put a one-year moratorium on new thrift shops, saying there are land-use issues that need to be reviewed.

Backers of the moratorium were a bit hazy on exactly what land-use issues are so confounding to them that they need a year to study it.

Councilwoman Mary Sherry said thrift stores are a “relatively new” type of retailing that needs more study.

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