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Posted on Mon. Jul. 23, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Volunteers in charge at chic Fort Wayne resale store, reNEW

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Who: reNEW

Upscale Resale

Where: 6406 E. State Blvd. in Georgetown Square

Hours: 10 a.m. –7 p.m. Monday–Friday; 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday

To donate: Call 748-0672

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ReNEW who? Jan Steiner, manager of reNEW Upscale Resale, said the store has been open since October 1, 2011, but reNEW is still seeing first-time costumers who didn't even know the store existed until recently.

ReNEW, 6406 E. State Blvd., is a nonprofit business benefiting Blackhawk Christian School. The store repurposes, renews or recycles donated items. It advertises itself as a department store with thrift store prices.

ReNEW has paid off its startup loan already and is exceeding the expectations of its business plan, according to the group. The organization will be able to present the school with a donation at the beginning of this school year.

Steiner said that representatives from reNEW will be deciding, with the input of the Blackhawk Christian board, how this donation will be used soon. She says the main focus for the money is helping families with tuition. But reNEW also wants to provide something that will benefit the whole school.

Steiner attributes reNEW's success to the store's organization and the quality of its products. It is no secret that thrift stores can be messy, but this store is set up in much the same way as a retail store. The aisles are straight and like items are grouped together. Racks of clothes sit in the middle of the store with rows of shoes behind them and selections of purses and men's ties off to the side. A baby crib filled with infant-themed bedding, throws and the like rests near the shelves of “Baby's first…” items. Past that coming back up toward the front of the store are kids' games and children's clothes. At the front of the store are home décor items on one side, furniture near the front window, and books and records on the other wall.

“We're trying to be more selective in what we put out . . . and the display and look of the store,” Steiner said.

Steiner approached Blackhawk Christian administrator Bill Hartman about a year ago on starting a retail store. Hartman thought the school could use another revenue source and agreed to pursue the project. Hartman's wife, Jan, brought retail background to the effort as a co-manager. Dawn Mishler became reNEW's third co-manager last summer.

Steiner borrowed the idea for reNEW from a store named Ditto in Holland, Mich., where she was a manager before moving to Fort Wayne. She said Ditto was very successful, providing a lot of money for Christian schools in its hometown.

ReNEW relies heavily on volunteer help. Steiner said more than 100 volunteers have spent time stocking shelves, sorting scrap metal and doing many other things for the organization. Among those volunteers are Blackhawk Christian students. They can work after school when it is hard to find other available people.

All of reNEW's merchandise is donated to the store. The store's most popular items, and thus most needed ones, are clothing and furniture. Almost all donations are welcome except chemicals, children's car seats, mattresses, pianos/organs and recalled items.

wyoung@news-sentinel.com


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