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Stone Soup overflowing: St. Paul Park thrift shop looks to expand

South Washington County residents are too generous. Well, at least their generosity is too much for Stone Soup Thrift Shop to accommodate in its current space.

The St. Paul Park thrift store is expanding as it sees continued growth in donations and shoppers and no extra space to store donated clothing and household items before they are sold. It's to the point where three times in the past month Stone Soup turned away people who wanted to give their used items because the shop ran out of storage space.

"It just keeps coming in the door," Majel Carroll, who oversees Stone Soup, said of donated goods. "People know that there's a need, and we encourage people to give."

Stone Soup sells used items at a discount, gives away some items and offers low-income residents vouchers to purchase basic clothing and household products.

More area residents are becoming familiar with the shop and are donating to it, Carroll said. Everything that is donated - from clothes to blankets, kitchen utensils to furniture - is sorted after it is dropped off. But Stone Soup has so much stock that it lacks space to store and organize new donations.

"We're to the point where we've got to do something," she said. "We can't keep telling people, 'Sorry, we can't take your goods.'"

Beginning next month the thrift shop will increase its space by about 20 percent when it rents an additional 1,600 square feet from its building neighbor, Shafer Cabinets.

The additional space -- a large former classroom -- will be converted into a donation sorting area. That will double the space Stone Soup workers and volunteers use to organize and store donated goods. The shop's current space is 6,200 square feet, about one-fifth of which is used for sorting and storage.

The rental agreement is for six months, but Carroll said Stone Soup probably will want to occupy the extra space for longer if its sales continue to do well.

Store use and sales are up. In 2010, Stone Soup had sales of $115,000 and its donations and vouchers totaled another $108,000. Sales reached nearly $66,000 the first six months of this year. The number of households seeking vouchers reached 40 in July; that's up from 16 in January 2010.

Stone Soup pays rent for its space at the Oltman Middle School complex, but it is not reimbursed by Washington County or other government funds for its expenses -- a common misperception, Carroll said.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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