Cook County News Herald

Got a Pea Coat?



You’ve finally decided to give up the beloved Navy pea coat that’s resided in the back of your closet for years. Oh, the memories! You bought it in college, your biggest purchase besides tuition and books, and it kept you warm as you forged your windy way across campus. It’s never gone out of style, but you’ve graduated to Gore-Tex and down. Chucking the nostalgia, you check it for stains or wear and add it to your “nice cast-offs pile” for the First & Second Thrift Store. You’ll bring it down next weekend.


Here’s the journey it would have taken.

On a Wednesday or Saturday morning you would have brought it to the back door of the thrift store with other lightly-used items you no longer need. A smiling volunteer would have rifled through your box, thanked you, and offered a receipt. (When the store reopens next spring, you’ll be able to drop off items any time it’s open. Just sayin’.)

Your box would be piled on intake shelves until another volunteer had time to go through it. She’d pull out your Pea Coat, fondly remembering her own (long gone). Incidentally, these coats have been around since the 1800’s, invented by the Dutch and adopted by the British Navy. She would inspect the coat for stains or wear, check the pockets to make sure they’re intact (and empty), and brush off any pet hair (too often the case). If the coat didn’t pass, it would go into the Goodwill bag, but yours does. (Seriously stained items go in the dumpster.) Your coat is in good shape, so she’d fold it neatly into an oversized bin labeled “Women’s Winter Coats.” A unisex item, it could also have gone into the men’s.

Next fall another volunteer would pull it from the bin, put it on a hanger, and decide on a price. Winter coats run from $8 to $50, and since new pea coats run over $200, she decides to put a $25 tag on this one. It would be a red tag for September, which would then be marked to half price a few months later.

Your pea coat would sell the day it’s put out. No wonder.

The good news is that you can set aside your better cast-offs until the thrift store reopens this spring. I know this because I’ve been helping manage the store for the past two years, and we’ll be desperate for inventory when we open this spring in the former Birchbark Books & Gifts building (Massie Garage). We stopped taking donations and sold most of our inventory once we learned the Voyageur Brewery had purchased our space for storage. Volunteers have packed up leftover items and supplies, which are being stored in garages donated by James Foulds and Shoshanna Matney. Thanks, guys! Thanks to everyone, in fact—the Council on Aging, who have managed our store for 15 years (we’re going independent as of January 1st); Jerry Starr, who has shared his enclosed trailer and made countless trips to the Duluth Goodwill for us; the Cook County Investment Group, which is remodeling their space for our needs; and our 43 dauntless volunteers, who have inspected, sorted, cleaned, priced, and sold the items in our retail store.

Our heartiest thanks, though, goes to Lois Johnson, who has worked thousands of hours in the store she established years ago with a few friends. Their goal was to recycle household goods and offer people a reasonably-priced option for merchandise as well as providing income for local non-profits (chosen by the volunteers).

So—PLEASE set aside your beloved pea coat and any other gently-used items and donate them to the new GM First & Second Thrift Store next spring.

It’s a win-win.

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