Say hello to the newest thrift store on the block.
But this one’s a little different.
Hopp’s Thrift Store isn’t run by a nonprofit. And it isn’t filled with racks of used clothing or furniture. Instead, it’s geared toward a different clientele. Car stereos, crescent wrenches, saw blades, cables, laptop computers.
Across the front door as you walk in are the words: “Specializing in what guys want.”
Proprietor Jeff Hopp, 44, opened the doors of his business in January. Since then, he said, sales have grown steadily.
“My goal is to get my income up to where I don’t have to rely on Social Security,” Hopp said. “And we just had our first month of breaking even.”
Oh … Did we mention Hopp is battling Parkinson’s? And that he has a pair of electrodes drilled down into the center of his brain?
So, yeah. Not your typical thrift shop, not your typical thrift shop owner.
“I expected him to succeed,” says his mom, Jean Hopp, who in her retirement has taken to working in the shop with her son.
Jeff Hopp grew up in the country and spent some of his childhood working at a nearby dairy farm. After graduating high school, he went to work setting up mobile homes for Countryside Homes. Eventually he went to what is now South Central College and became an electronic technician.
He worked at IBM for 15 months and then went back to school at Minnesota State University where he earned a degree in electrical engineering. Degree in hand, he found a job in the Twin Cities.
He worked in North St. Paul for several years before being laid off. His wife also lost her job.
At about this time, Hopp says, he began to suffer from migraines. He sought medical attention and was given medication to help. But the side effects sent him back to his doctor with a laundry list of what the drug was doing to him: He was moving slowly, his memory, cognitive skills and balance were diminished, he was having unexplainable tremors in his thumb.
“I’d call him Ozzy Osborne,” said Jean Hopp, “because he was always shuffling.”
His doctor looked at the list, sat back in his chair and said, “You have Parkinson’s.”
It was also around this time that his life got exponentially more difficult. His wife, who had been struggling with mental illness, died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism.
“It was really hard,” he said. “That’s all I can really say about it.”
But he still had the Parkinson’s to deal with.
At first his disease progressed slowly. But as it got worse, they tried managing it with medication, which proved difficult. The medication gave him side effects that were so debilitating that he had to cut back on his dose. Cutting back neutered whatever effectiveness the drug could have.
It wasn’t until he had a device implanted to regulate the part of his brain that malfunctions and produces the tell-tale tremors visible in Parkinson’s sufferers. The device connects via cable to the electrodes burrowed into his brain. He says the device has improved his condition dramatically. Without it, he says, he might not be the proprietor of the ninth thrift store in the Mankato area.
Hopp says he’s always been one of those guys trying to make a deal. In high school he used to buy blank cassette tapes from an online catalog where they sold for cheap. Then he’d turn around and sell some of them to his buddies cheaper than they’d pay at Team Electronics.
Today, all his focus is on his new business.
Prior to opening in January, he spent a couple of years stockpiling inventory. Last month was his first where he broke even. Foot traffic has been growing, he said, and he’s got a few regulars who wait for him to unlock the door at 10 a.m. (hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday).
While it’s too soon to say for sure, Hopp says he’s confident he’ll soon be able to expand into the space adjacent to his store, which currently sits just off Madison Avenue roughly behind Wendy’s Restaurant.