Julie wrote this piece in the fall of 2014 at the behest of her alma mater. While Nellie has since departed, the Jr. Shopkeeper has progressed beyond Kindergarten, we've *all* experienced widespread global upheaval since this was published, and we're no longer operating brick & mortar at 41st & Minnehaha, the start-up story, the company, and its audacious mission — remain the same:
The string lights twinkle overhead as I lock the shop door, grabbing old Nellie’s leash and the Junior Shopkeeper’s hand for the brief walk back to our house. Another day at Junket has wrapped up, and it’ll be bedtime for all three of us in short order.
It’s different now. These shop days are less common for us, thanks to an incredible team and my place on the staffing plan having been implemented around my daughter’s kindergarten schedule. It’s also a reminder how things have changed since the night my former husband said nine words that set my world spinning: “I love you – but I’m IN love with HER.”
Since then, I’ve learned this: when beautiful things (and people) are abandoned, it doesn’t mean they’ve lost value; they just need to survive long enough to find new purpose and appreciation elsewhere. Junket is proof of that. So am I.
The first months following that ‘in love with’ revelation were horrific. I avoided antidepressants out of fear for my nursing baby’s health. Situational depression complicated an already challenging postpartum experience, and brought with it a 49-pound weight loss. Needing office-appropriate attire that fit, I thrifted on the cheap while M visited with her dad, and I supplemented the diminished household income by consigning my older, larger clothing.
As my appetite returned, so did some of the missing pounds, and with the changes, a revolving door of thrifted clothing to my closet and then on to consignment. I remember the “omigosh!” moment when, after picking up a commission check, I saw that one of my 50-cent tiny shirts had sold for $10. The return on investment piqued my interest.
Soon I was collecting all sorts of beautiful things that I knew held – or should hold – more value than what I’d paid.
In February 2011 I learned that my employer would be conducting a mass layoff the following week. I walked cautiously into my director’s office: “I’m not saying I want to leave, but if my name’s in the mix and it’ll keep my people employed … I’ll be fine.”
And I was.
I got creative to make ends meet and continued to nurture this little treasure-hunting thing I had going. When a friend proposed that we host a vintage sale in fall 2012, I wondered if could I drive enough traffic to my home in one weekend to merit the renting of a small space for future sales. Yes, it appeared that I could.
Junket: Tossed & Found opened in time for Christmas that year, and tripled in size within a year. What started as a tiny, occasional vintage shop has since grown into a secondhand mercantile of sorts with nearly 3,000 square feet dedicated to those with an eye for the vintage, visual and creative.
It supplies everything from antique hand tools to knitting needles, crayons to chemises, art supplies to finished works that have been made locally using secondhand components.
The shop, known for its assortment, aesthetic, and hyper-organization, now anchors an emerging reuse district in south Minneapolis.
I believed at the time of Junket’s inception that there were others like me who would value the time and energy invested by an unknown predecessor to produce a lovely hand-tatted pillowcase; others like me who would find a way to make something of beauty useful despite a stain or a tear.
As it turns out, that belief was well founded, and also well timed: economic and ecological factors have created a social environment where all that is old is new again.
A growing social enterprise, Junket’s mission is to make it easier for people to connect with good, used stuff – and to help connect beautiful, used things with people who appreciate and will use them.
Our environmental solution: to markedly reduce landfill contributions by eliminating barriers to – and creating enthusiasm for – reuse.
Creating enthusiasm is the easy part, because enthusiasm is widely known to be contagious. By fostering an environment where people feel welcomed (and are congratulated for Dumpster diving and rewarded for great ideas), we make reuse fun.
Eliminating barriers has been trickier. The great news is that people want to do the right thing. The problem, of course, is that the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing.
For the first time in recent history, more people stepped foot in a resale shop than in a department store last year. Still, it tends to be a leisure time event, a quest for that unexpected treasure or a sweet vintage bargain.
The existing reuse market lacks the complexity and specificity that allows us to easily find something we want, quickly. Imagine the time – and gasoline – it would take to visit the number of thrift stores, estate-, yard-, or rummage sales to find a specific item priced and waiting.
Yet, if we were to put half as much energy into developing a redistribution system for great, used goods as we put into new product distributions systems by our big box competitors, we would have world-class distribution of all sorts of high quality items — and the ability to obtain and purchase these things at will.
And so, at Junket we’re working on it. Need a pencil? 10 cents, freshly sharpened. Beading supplies, crochet thread, hand planer? Yes. At present, the shop offers hundreds of thousands of individual bits and pieces: 3-penny nails and replacement game pieces, fishing lures and gingham yardage – all previously owned, all saved from the landfill.
Better yet? Because we’re focusing on developing a solution to a mass-consumption issue to which we all contribute, we welcome collaboration. Does the mission resonate? Can you see yourself making a difference? Or maybe you work for a new product retailer willing to consider a new (used) approach to serving the mass market? If so, let’s explore how much positive change we can drive together.
Special thanks to longtime friend and former classmate, Erin Hemme Froslie, for her strong editorial support — and for approaching me to write this piece for the Fall, 2014 issue of Concordia Magazine.