At the Newton Et Cetera Shop, things are always changing. After all, about 1,000 new items hit the sales floor of the secondhand shop each day, according to Assistant Manager Sarah Fleming.


This story first appeared in the Jan. 22 edition of the Kansan.

At the Newton Et Cetera Shop, things are always changing. After all, about 1,000 new items hit the sales floor of the secondhand shop each day, according to Assistant Manager Sarah Fleming.

But even more changes are coming in the next couple of weeks as the store undergoes some renovations and improvements.

Leia Lawrence, general manager, said the store will close for two weeks beginning Monday. During that time, volunteers and staff will make renovations and improvements throughout the store.

When the store reopens at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 9, customers should see a new look to the sales floor. Fleming said a paint job and new color scheme are planned. Signage likely will look a little different, and Lawrence said Spanish language signage will be expanded. Other cleaning projects and upgrades are planned.

A couple of departments are moving on the sales floor, with the children’s area moving closer to the front.

“We’re creating a children’s boutique,” Fleming said, and staff are hoping to bring a boutique feel to other sections of the store, as well.

Lawrence said one of the goals is to create a space that is “welcoming, friendly and warm” for customers.

“We’re really excited,” Lawrence said, noting many of the ideas have come from customer and volunteer critiques, as well as staff ideas.

Fleming said donations have increased every year, so it is necessary to increase room on the sales floor.

And that increase in donations also is leading to some changes in the back part of the building, which customers may not notice, but staff hope the changes will create a safer, more efficient space for sorting donations.

Lawrence said with the current setup, “things get clogged” because of an abundance of donations. New equipment will help get items off the floor, making it better for fire safety and staff movement. She also said the changes should help volunteers not have to bend down as much and should increase the flow in the area.

As a result of the changes in the back room, customers will need to enter only through the front doors, Lawrence said.

“It’s not a thru-traffic area,” she said.

The changes have been in the works since early 2008, Lawrence said. Funding for the project will come from store proceeds. Normally, funds brought in above what the store needs to function are forwarded on to Mennonite Central Committee.

Lawrence said the store discussed the work with MCC, which “definitely approved” of a plan to set aside funds for the work. Lawrence said the upgrades should allow the store to raise more for MCC in the long-term.

The physical work is being done by volunteers, Fleming said, including a group from the Hesston College Mennonite Disaster Program, which will donate a day of work to the store. Lawrence said other college students from Hesston and Bethel College in North Newton, as well as community people and regular volunteers will be in on the work.

Fleming said the store has about 200 volunteers and 16 partner churches from which to pull helpers for the project, including carpenters, artists and metal workers.

The store is always looking for regular volunteers, Lawrence said, especially for Saturdays. She said volunteers get first pick of the merchandise — but no discounts — and can use the opportunity to work with old friends and make new ones.

“It can be a real relationship-building activity,” she said.

Volunteers should be 14 years of age or older unless accompanied by an adult. Lawrence said skills and abilities of volunteers are taken into consideration.

A special volunteer training and orientation for current and prospective volunteers will be Feb. 6, beginning at 9 a.m. — meaning volunteers will get a sneak peek at the store before it reopens Feb. 9. Those interested should register by Jan. 30 by calling the store at 283-9461 or stopping by at 619 N. Main St.

To help clean out current merchandise, the store will be having a storewide 50-percent-off sale Friday and a 75-percent off sale Saturday, with a “Fill a Bag for $1 Sale” beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday.

In another effort to create space for the work ahead, the store is not accepting donations. Beginning Monday, donations can be brought from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The store does not accept TVs, computers, car seats or large appliances. All items should be clean, and small appliances should work.

Items that do not get sold often get recycled. In addition to recycling glass and metal, the store partners with MCC to recycle textiles — from soft toys to clothing — which are then bundled and sold to companies who deal in recyclables. Fleming said one recent company made insulation from the materials.

Lawrence said staff tries to be mindful of the amount of housewares being discarded as well, so they partner with Agape Resource Center so the center can take items it might need.