Wausau Pilot & Review
Editor’s note: Business of the Week is a sponsored feature that shares the stories of locally-owned and operated businesses in the Wausau area, highlighting the products and services they offer and the ways they contribute to the metro area’s unique flavor. Learn how to feature your business by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s featured Wausau business is St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, 131 W. Thomas St. in Wausau. This store, filled with gently used furniture, clothing, shoes and much more, was borne of a desire by Rev. William Grevatch and several east-side Catholic parish members to assist local neighbors in need. In 2008, Rev. Grevatch worked with parish members to start the SVDP Cabrini Conference Ministry with that goal in mind. The thrift store opened in 2014 to become the primary funding source for the ministry. The team is headed up by President Bob Buckley, Co-Vice Presidents Marty Mullen and Ken Tokarz, store manager Kim Kuske and assistant managers Dave Hansen and Jordan May. Together, they work tirelessly to ensure the needs of the people of Marathon County are met. From picking up donated furniture to delivering purchased items, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store goes above and beyond with an eye toward service. Now, the store is expanding its selections to support a wider variety of products to choose from – giving donated clothing and household goods new life while keeping them from the landfill. If you haven’t visited St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store lately, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the shop has to offer – with a friendly, caring and helpful staff on hand to answer questions and guide you in the right direction. The organization is also in great need of volunteers. Kim Kuske, store manager, said it’s all about serving the community in the best way possible. “We thank everyone for helping the store succeed, so that we can continue offering help and hope,” she said.
Q: How did you choose the name of your business? What are you trying to convey?
Our local SVDP Cabrini Conference is part of the International St Vincent de Paul Society. We chose the name SVDP Cabrini Conference in honor of St. Francis Cabrini, the first American citizen to become a saint. She was known for her dedicated service to the poor, uneducated, sick and abandoned.
Q: Tell us more. What products or services do you offer?
We are a locally operated and funded Catholic lay non-profit organization that provides basic human needs services in the Wausau area. The Thrift Store is the primary funding source for the outreach ministry. Donations are processed for re-sale or recycled instead of ending up in a landfill. We are known for our consistently fresh inventory of clothing, furniture, housewares, and one-of-a-kind treasures, along with a friendly staff. New factory-fresh mattresses, box springs, and frames are also available at an affordable price.
Q: What makes your business unique? What sets you apart?
Donations and profits from the store are used to help our neighbors in need throughout Marathon County. Our thrift store picks up furniture donations and delivers purchased items. We are also unique in that we have two volunteer floral designers who repurpose floral donations to create beautiful, newly designed centerpieces and wreaths which are sold at the store.
Q:What are you most proud of accomplishing?
We are in the process of totally transforming the thrift store, based on best practices and up-to-date systems. Our goal is to significantly increase sales to meet the needs of our neighbors. We have invested in additional shelving, clothing, and material handling equipment to support a wider variety and higher volume of product. Customers can now receive daily discounts of 30%, 50%, or 75% off merchandise. We have also significantly expanded our furniture retail space and clothing selections for men, women, and children.
Q: How have you changed and evolved over time? What’s different now from when you first started?
The mission has seen a major uptick in requests for assistance because of the pandemic. Our loyal customers and donors have helped us to grow so that we can meet those needs.
Q: What challenges have you had to overcome? Basically, if you had to do all over again, would you do anything differently?
Store sales suffered severely because of the Thomas Street Road construction in 2017 and 2019. Then the pandemic closed the store for two months in 2020. Fortunately, we were able to keep up with requests for assistance through the hard work of store employees and home visit volunteers. When we reopened, we were blessed with an abundance of donations which became a catalyst for growth.
Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Our vision for the ministry is to continue to build collaborative relationships with all the human services organizations in our generous community, so we can provide more comprehensive solutions that enable those in need to reach better stability and self-sufficiency. We are excited to be working with the new Community Partners Campus project. The thrift store is critical to supporting our vision by providing funding for basic human needs assistance as well as furniture, clothing, and housewares for our neighbors in need.