JOLIET – “I used to come here all the time when it was Aldi’s,” Dianna Martin of Channahon said while shopping one day last week.
The store at 1820 W. Jefferson St. is now the newest St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in the Diocese of Joliet.
The store, which opened March 19, is the latest nonprofit resale shop to locate on a major commercial street in Joliet. And it may not be the last to fill a spot once occupied by a major retailer.
The Salvation Army has applied for a special-use permit to move into the Century Tile store at 1395 Larkin Ave. Century Tile, still in the building, plans to move into another Joliet location.
“It’s very nice,” Martin said of the new St. Vincent de Paul store. “The people are nice and friendly. Last week, I did score a brand new three-piece sofa set. Brand new.”
Thrift store denizens and bargain hunters make up the retail trade for St. Vincent de Paul and other nonprofit resale shops. Being in a high-traffic location makes the store easier to find.
“I have some people who come in two or three times a day,” store manager Luis Trujillo said. “People come in from other towns.”
St. Vincent de Paul already had a store in downtown Joliet on Chicago Street – no longer a major retail area. That store is staying open.
Trujillo, who also managed the Chicago Street store, said he has seen new customers at the new location. But he also sees many of the old customers.
“I think it’s wonderful,” JoAnn Grose of Joliet, a longtime customer, said of the new store. “It’s very impressive. It’s clean. And I think the furniture is out of sight.”
The new store has the same kind of merchandise as the Chicago Street store – only more of it. The Jefferson Street store is as much as four times larger, Trujillo said.
But one thing has not changed.
“Our mission is still the same,” Trujillo said. “We support our poor families. We will continue to do that.”
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul provides rental and utility assistance. Not everyone who shops there pays cash. Many customers have vouchers provided by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul because of financial need and the store provides them with clothes.
Bill Thomas, general manager for St. Vincent de Paul stores in the Joliet diocese, started out as a volunteer. He still remembers his first day. He visited a man who needed steel-toed shoes for his first day on a new job or he could not work. But the man did not have the money to buy the shoes.
“I took him to Kmart and bought him some steel-toed work shoes,” Thomas said. “It was the best 45 bucks I ever spent.”
While the mission stays the same, Thomas said locating stores in major commercial districts is a trend.
“We’re doing that more and more,” he said. “We’re getting more involved with business districts.”
MorningStar and Habitat
MorningStar Mission, which runs a homeless shelter in Joliet, opened its Treasure Chest resale store at 2221 W. Jefferson St. in 2000.
“We use it for multiple things,” Assistant Executive Director Sandi Perzee said. “Of course, retail. But that’s where we send people who have needs for things they can’t afford. If they have a new apartment, they can go there for furniture. Or, if they need clothes, they get a voucher here and can go there for clothes.”
Will County Habitat for Humanity opened its ReStore Home and Furniture Outlet at 200 S. Larkin Ave. in 2011. Store proceeds help pay for the organization’s affordable housing projects.
“Every month is better than the month before, and we’re extremely grateful,” Executive Director Annette Leck said.
With more resale stores moving into the neighborhood, Leck said she believes the stores can thrive because each carries unique items.
“If we have a couch you love, you can’t go to a store down the street and find it,” she said. “It’s only here.”