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From storage units to shopping mall

Treasures Found Thrift Store opened on Dec. 13, 2021 and resell items from estate sales, storage units, evictions and more.

A woman checks out at the counter of a thrift store.
The owner of Treasures Found Thrift Shop, Ron Fitch, left, helps Rachel Gutlovics check out her items on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch
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BAXTER — When Ron Fitch started buying storage units, he didn’t quite know what he would find or where it would lead him.

Fitch is the owner of Treasures Found, a thrift shop located at Westgate Mall. He opened Dec. 13, 2021, and has continued to enjoy his hobby turned career.

Fitch began to buy storage units in March of 2021 and was only selling things on Facebook Marketplace or having garage sales at the time. In July of 2021, he began to think ahead and prepare for the colder weather. He understood he couldn’t have garage sales in the winter months and sought out a more permanent solution.

Upon calling the mall about open locations, he decided to make an offer for the biggest spot available and was approved. Fitch had a lot of products and wanted a location that would allow him to display the most merchandise as possible.

Treasures Found is not the only thrift store in the mall. Up Thrift Shop is also in the mall and Fitch says many people confuse the two stores.

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Fitch buys more than storage units to stock his store. He also buys from estate sales, takes donations, cleans out evictions and foreclosures, and shops garage sales in the summer.

Clothing and chairs for sale in a thrift shop.
Treasures Found Thrift Store has a variety of items from clothing to furniture within the store, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch

He got into his hobby-turned-business through his fiancee, Ary Koch. Koch owns her own cleaning business, Complete Cleaning Solution, which Fitch helps with. About two and a half years prior, the two were working an eviction and threw away so many things that could’ve been used.

“About two and a half years ago, we got called to do an eviction where the owner abandoned the house, took her kids and just left the house full. We ended up throwing out probably $20,000 plus — what the stuff was. We were paid hourly to empty the house and there was no structure to get rid of it and it just felt horrible. You're throwing away nice clothes and whatnot. You're just paid to empty it out. You can’t spend extra time going through it because the customer is not going to pay for that. So afterwards, I said to myself, `Never again.’”

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Fitch is currently the sole employee of his store, but many friends and family volunteer their time to help process items and watch the store.

One of Fitch’s favorite things to get are ‘80s and ‘90s collectables. He said they are good sellers since the generation looking for those items are more likely to be in a stable spot in their career and have a little more to spend on items they want.

However, Fitch carries a plethora of items. There is a wide variety of clothing, kitchen utensils, furniture and more stocked within the store. One cool item within the store is an old painting.

“There's this painting in the back,” Fitch said. “He lived off Ojibwe Road and somebody local painted it. He died in 1981. I picked up the leftovers from an estate sale a month ago and I've got the folder with all the documentation and they're trying to see if (the Historical Society) wants it with the documentation. So I'm holding on to it because I have no clue who he is, if that's an unknown local artist or if it was just somebody randomly painting.”

A painting by Hoy of a man who lived in the area
One item in Treasures Found is a painting by Hoy of a man who lived off Ojibwe Road. Fitch is waiting to see if the Historical Society would like the photo before he thinks about selling it in his shop.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch

Fitch keeps some of his unprocessed items in the store, too. Sometimes customers will come up and ask for a specific thing and he will have it in the back.

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“The other day a lady brought up one of those kitchen towels with a little loop that's knit on the back and then with the little button on it,” Fitch said. “She's like, ‘Oh, I’d love to find one of these that didn't have a broken button.’ (I said) ‘One moment’ and I walked to the back and I came back with like 10 of them, like ‘Here, pick which ones you want.’”

In the future, Fitch hopes to start his own nonprofit with the help of his store. He said he has a strong desire to make a difference. He wants people to know he is there for the community and if someone is in need of help, he is willing to help.

He’s watched as other thrift stores have turned away other people because they either can’t take the stuff or won’t make a profit from it.

A large variety of items for sale at a thrift shop
Ron Fitch said Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022, he tries to keep some of the nicer items in or behind a display case. Items that are easy targets for theft also get kept in a more secure area.
Sara Guymon / Brainerd Dispatch

“In the spring, a guy came in. His wife had passed seven months before he finally had a garage sale to sell what he was willing to let go," Fitch said, but the man was unable to find a donation place that would accept the item. "I was his third or fourth stop. He still had a truckload. This guy is trying to heal from his wife's passing and I told him, ‘Don't worry, I'll take care of it. I'll take it.’ So I took all of it and it was just one thing off his plate. That's a nice service for people that are trying to heal and move on that nobody else thinks of.”

Fitch will continue to run the store with the help of his friends and family until it gets to a more sustainable spot. He hopes to apply for an advertising grant in the future and continues to expand his stock in the meantime.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch, staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com

Related Topics: LOCAL BUSINESSBAXTERSMALL BUSINESSRETAIL
Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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