ROGERS PARK — New to You Thrift Shop, a longtime staple of Rogers Park, has returned to business as usual after being closed for part of the pandemic.
The thrift store inside United Church of Rogers Park at 1545 W. Morse Ave. reopened in June after being closed for several months. Carol Thompson, a volunteer and member of the shop’s committee, said it feels good being back in the neighborhood.
“People love this place,” Thompson said. “I always say it’s kind of like Cheers, you know, ‘where everybody knows your name.’ We have regulars who come in all the time. They’ve missed it after being closed during COVID. We get so many people coming in. [I’m] glad it’s reopened and glad to touch base and connect once again.”
The church that started the shop started meeting at a train station at Lunt and Ravenswood and moved to Morse Avenue in 1905. The church, then known as Rogers Park Congregational Church, burned down in 1925.
Two years later, a new building with three storefronts was built on Morse Avenue. The church rented two of the spaces to outside groups to generate extra income — and the women’s society opened the thrift shop in the third. It was started to provide neighborhood families with inexpensive shopping options.
Now, New to You occupies all three spaces, offering clothes, books, vinyl, dishes, jewelry and other kitschy items.
Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, immigrants became a significant part of the community’s population and the thrift shop’s customer base, and New to You continues to serve the diverse groups that call Rogers Park home, Thompson siad.
But the shop faced issues during the pandemic, particularly with cash flow, Thompson said. It became difficult to support the shop’s paid staff member with little money coming into the business and the church’s “shoestring budget.”
Now that the thrift shop has reopened, donations — monetary and otherwise — are helping the store stay afloat.
“We get so many donations, and we get more than we can even use,” Thompson said. “So we have a never-ending stream of good stuff for folks.”
Thompson said she and many volunteers are enjoying feeling reconnected to the community now that they’re back at the store. Many of them are church members who often peruse the wares themselves.
“One of our volunteers is a 95-year-old woman who has lived in the neighborhood for many, many years and used to buy clothes for her kids here when she was a working mom,” Thompson said. “Now she volunteers with us repairing jewelry and doing different things like that. So it’s been a place where the community gets involved.”
Volunteers Phylis Tholin and Mary Cross are longtime members of the church. Tholin had always liked thrift shops and used to be a bookseller. She’d wanted to get acquainted with the neighborhood when she started volunteering.
“It’s a place where I can interact with people that I don’t normally interact with,” Tholin said. “I live in a retirement home now, and I really enjoy being in this community.”
Cross has volunteered since 1982. She is good friends with one of the church’s former pastors and said being at the thrift shop helps her feel close to her friend, whom she doesn’t get to see very often.
“She’s my guardian angel,” Cross said.
For Thompson, her work at the thrift shop is a continuation of a lifetime of public service. She worked in the anti-apartheid movement for nearly 20 years.
She said she finds many people at the church and shop who share her interests.
“I feel like we still need places where people can come and experience each other, be together,” Thompson said. “And Rogers Park is a good place for that. And this church is truly committed to being open and inclusive.”
The church is raising money for its Uplift Accessibility Project, which would repair things like crumbling stairs at the church’s west entrance to the sanctuary and add an accessibility lift and ramp. The project is nearly half-funded, with $65,000 needed to reach its goal.
New to You Thrift Shop is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays inside United Church of Rogers Park at 1545 W. Morse Ave.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: