Small Business Spotlight: Bargains on 7th leans on community to offer high-quality thrift

More than 4,000 consigners empowers the proprietors of Bargains on 7th to be especially selective with what they're willing to sell and the result is a high-end thrift store with an inventory of options that are second to none.

Judy Ebinger (left), Kris Hochmayr, owner, and Darla Fleischhacker pause their busy schedules Thursday, June 10, 2021, while working at Bargains on 7th in downtown Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

It has to be fun if it brings somebody back, day after day, for more than 25 years with no end in sight.

That’s been the experience of Kris Hochmayr, founder and proprietor of Bargains on 7th, a high-end consignment store in Brainerd’s historic downtown. When Bargains on 7th arrived on the scene in 1996, there wasn’t anything in terms of thrift stores, consignment shops or second-hand commercial outlets in downtown. Now, it’s thriving and it has healthy competition sprouting all over the Brainerd lakes area.

What’s powered Bargains on 7th during the intervening decades, Hochmayr said, is its people — whether they’re employees, its loyal customer base, or more than 4,000 consignors who provide the store’s expansive inventory. Consignors garner 50% of any profits made from the items the store agrees to sell. It is this broad base of options that enables Bargains on 7th to select the cream of the crop, only offering the best of the best to its customers.

“What makes it work is that we're very fussy about what we take. Everything has to be clean, everything has to be perfect,” Hochmayr said. “I’ve been very lucky. We’ve got great people who consign with us. They make it work and our customers make it work and word of mouth is great. I mean, we don't advertise much and still people keep coming back.”

There’s a little something for anyone. Bargains on 7th primarily sells women’s and men’s clothing, home decor and antiques, but a quick walk through the store reveals that much more can be found here. Perhaps it’s a cubby of used books in the corner, or a glassware set by the window, or maybe it’s jewelry tucked in a case.


It would be difficult to pin down just all that can be found at Bargains on 7th. And, in many ways, the point is the act of searching, Hochmayr said. As is often the case with thrift shopping, half the fun is treasure hunting, or the notion that something wonderful and unexpected could be just around the corner as long as shoppers are willing to take a look.

There’s also the added benefit that, in the thrifting world, competition is often a plus and not a negative, Hochmayr noted. There’s Open City Thrift across the street, Hochmayr offered as an example, but Bargains on 7th is also a beneficiary of a surging downtown. Small shops and boutiques have been popping up regularly the last few years, she said, and coming into this new shopping environment are customers, both familiar friends and new. It’s always a boon for businesses to have a steady trickle of people moseying their way through Brainerd, she said, and Bargains on 7th is no exception.

As for Hochmayr herself, owning a thrift store was born on a whim, in her own words. She founded Bargains on 7th in the mid-’90s with a partner, who built the business alongside Hochmayr for 15 years before she moved out of the area and sold her stake to Hochmayr. It remains a small outfit, with one full-time employee and five part-timers who help Hochmayr run the consignment store.

And, as the pendulum of time swings back and forth, Hochmayr reflected on her business that’s been around for more than a quarter of a century in the Brainerd lakes area. The business model of consignment stores means that a lot of money is circulated and remains in the local area, unlike big box stores, said Hochmayr, who noted it’s the power of community in every step of the process that makes Bargains on 7th possible.

“I'm really proud of what the store has done, not only for us and my employees, but for the community. You really feel consignment stores and thrift stores are really big right now,” Hochmayr said with a laugh.“It's a good thing. I mean, I'm still here.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .

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