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Salvation Army's Thrift Store has made positive turnaround

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It’s been less than two years since the Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army’s Thrift Store was on the verge of closing its doors.

Fast forward to June of 2012 and the thrift store, located on South Sixth Street in Brainerd, has turned around from its once dire situation to a success.

The thrift store was going to be closed down at the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year as it was not meeting its budget. Another factor in the possible closing was the use of portable storage bins in which the Salvation Army stored donations from the community. The Salvation Army was told by the city of Brainerd that it couldn’t keep the bins stored outside its building anymore because it was against city ordinance.

Capt. Scott Strissel, who took over as the corps officer for the Brainerd Lakes Salvation Army last summer, said Tuesday that there have been some ups and downs through the past year, but the thrift store has turned a new corner.

Strissel credits the success of the store to the community and the staff. He said the store has seen a trend of seeing a 50 percent increase from last year.

“The community really rallied around the store when it was on the brink of closing,” said Strissel. “We’ve really tried to market ourselves to keep us in the public eye. We started a Facebook page (”

Strissel said they changed a few things on how to operate the store and it has been working. Strissel said staffing changed some, with the addition of Holly Willert who became the store manager last spring. Willert is full-time and then there are six part-time or seasonal employees.

“The staff really came together with Holly’s leadership,” said Strissel.

Strissel said they also have priced their items differently, having better deals on certain days on the items at the store that include clothes, books, furniture and household and children items.

Store staff also started a silent auction of selected items that are donated to the Salvation Army for customers to bid on. Strissel said the silent auction has helped generate more customers.

“We figured out a good way to get our inventory on the floor,” said Strissel. “We are always trying to stay current and to get fresh items out on the floor. We’re also making sure that if we have an item that has been on the floor for a long period of time that we need to find a way to sell it or find an outside company that would need it.”

The purpose of the store is to generate funds to help those in need through the Salvation Army’s social service office. Strissel said that the funds generated from the store are used to help people in Crow Wing County with assistance with emergency housing, utilities and heat, as well as basic human needs, such as food and clothing.

Strissel said the thrift store brought in $115,000 in 2011 and their goal is to bring in $140,000 this year.

In 2011, the Salvation Army served more than 33,000 people and so far this year nearly 20,000 people have been served.

The thrift store is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Donations are accepted from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, but no one will be turned away. Strissel said they also will pick up donated items if people call the store at 822-3559.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow me on Twitter at