Most of us know that thrift stores are inexpensive places to shop, and they help keep items out of the landfills. They are great for collectors who love furniture and other little extras, with a mix of vintage and new.
Some are run by charitable organizations, like one I found recently called The Yellow Monkey.
Cindy Rigotti is the founder and manager of this nonprofit thrift shop, which helps young adults with disabilities learn job skills, as their mission is to create a fun place to shop and also to teach skills to put on a resume.
“We work with several different groups that volunteer at our store from ABC (Ability Building Community), PossAbilities, Opportunity Services, the Rochester School District, and a few others," she said.
Rigotti said the volunteers with disabilities enjoy meeting other volunteers and working at the store.
"Merchandising, helping customers, running the cash register, cleaning, repurposing — they do it all,” she said.
The Yellow Monkey officially opened in November 2017 at 1119 Seventh St. NW in Rochester.
"I have a son on the autism spectrum," Rigotti said. "He used to volunteer at a nonprofit called The Community Clothesline in Rochester, and he loved it. Unfortunately, they closed. So I founded The Yellow Monkey so young adults with disabilities would have a place to volunteer and learn job skills. Plus I love to thrift and repurpose items to sell in our store.”
Each store that I've written about over the years has its own uniqueness, and that’s what attracts shoppers. And with a name like The Yellow Monkey, I thought I should check it out.
Rigotti said they get a lot of donations, and do some "picking" at garage and estate sales and other nonprofits.
"We have furniture, such as dressers, desks, chairs, tables, shelves. Lamps and pictures, too. Beautiful vintage items, such as glassware, afghans, linens ... We paint some of the dressers, and we make the pillows. We do have a few consignors with candles, jewelry, rugs, baby items and quilted items. We now carry chalk paint, Country Chic Paint, that we use on everything we paint, and we are also a retailer for it,” she said.
For pricing, Rigotti said they check eBay, Etsy and other sites for comparison, and to keep prices reasonable.
So, who shops there?
“We have a variety of shoppers," she said. "We have support from shoppers who love that we help people with disabilities. Some shoppers are collectors and love to thrift. We have something for everyone ... even dogs."
Carol Thouin, of Spring Valley, said she's purchased a variety of items from The Yellow Monkey over the years, including furniture, decor and pillows.
"I love shopping there, because it supports people with disabilities who are the creators of many of the items found in the shop," she said.
With their steady group of nine volunteers, The Yellow Monkey is open weekdays noon to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Rigotti said they'd like to add more volunteers so they can extend their hours.
"Customers love the store, and we have many regular shoppers, with folks coming from Albert Lea, Austin, Winona, the Twin Cities, and a few come from out of state that shop when they are visiting Mayo,” she said.
For more information on The Yellow Monkey and photos of some of their featured items, visit the store's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/havefunattheyellowmonkey.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at firstname.lastname@example.org.