Old School back in session

Old School, the nonprofit thrift shop operated by Steeple People
Molly Johnson and Joe Partyka are glad to be back and serving the neighborhood at Old School, the nonprofit thrift shop operated by Steeple People in Stevens Square. Photo by Andrew Hazzard

Old School, Steeple People’s nonprofit thrift shop in Stevens Square, is back in business, adjusting to new conditions during the coronavirus pandemic while trying to serve a stable of customers in need of clothing and goods at low prices.

The longtime Minneapolis thrift and consignment shop was closed from mid-March to July 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic and has reopened with some new protocols, but with the same quality deals and friendly faces as before. The reopening began with slow days but has since seen a steady rise in business, according to store manager Joe Partyka.

“It’s been really nice and energizing to see people coming in,” assistant manager Molly Johnson said.

Old School sells a bit of everything. You can find china dish sets and cameras, toys and coffee mugs, doorknobs and cooking pots, and, if you get there soon, a coffee table photo book called “Cats in Love.” Their clothing section is large and popular with people looking for good deals on outfits or vintage looks.

Old School will try to sell anything clean and usable, Partyka said, but prefers clothing donations to be seasonal. The store is always in need of men’s clothing and cookware, which usually go fast, he said.

Goods move quickly, and if an item doesn’t sell in six to eight weeks, Old School will donate it to shelter organizations like Mary’s Place in Downtown. The goal is to constantly keep goods moving, and the staff will mark items down to half price if they linger on the shelf.

Donations typically flow in constantly, but during the pandemic, the shop is only collecting goods on Wednesday afternoons and has had to ask people to limit some donations, so staff has time to go through everything.

“We’ve had to be more selective about what we bring in,” Johnson said.

The shop has traditionally relied on volunteer workers. But many of those volunteers are senior citizens at a higher risk with COVID-19 and have opted to donate goods instead of time.

For retired Star Tribune press operator Bruce Johnson, the decision to return to volunteering was difficult. But he said the store has done a good job creating a safe environment, and after talking to a relative in health care, he felt more confident in going back for his typical Thursday shift at the register. He enjoys it.

“I like the folks I work with, and I like the clientele very much,” he said.

Right now, the shop is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. As the shop is debuting many new donations each week, customers know to come Thursday mornings.

On Aug. 26 a group of customers came in right away. Many have told the staff how glad they are that the business is back.

“We are one of the major walkable stores in the area,” Partyka said.

Old School by Steeple People

1901 Nicollet Ave.