Clothes Closet still thriving after decades of service

The business has not only survived after nearly 40 years, but it just keeps thriving.

The Community Clothes Closet will celebrate 40 years in October, and they have been able to sustain their business and their community support thanks to the support of their patrons. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Record)

By COLE BENZ | Record Editor

The business has not only survived after nearly 40 years, but it just keeps thriving. The Community Clothes Closet on Main Street in Hettinger was opened in October 1977, it has moved three times and has been a key supporter of multiple community organizations since it’s inception.

Pastor Torkelson of the Lutheran church in Hettinger started the conversation. He was looking for a way to support various causes and when he brought up the idea, 14 women signed up to organize and operate the project.

Originally at the Norby House on 10th Street South, the mission was to recycle good, used clothing for the patrons, and to use whatever money exceeded operating cost to support various causes.

After less than one year of operation, they were already looking for a bigger facility.

“It just kept growing, very rapidly,” Adajean Cornella said. Cornella is the current Clothes Closet board president.

After keeping two-day operating hours, by July in 1979 they had expanded by four more days. After they moved from the Norby House to the Outka Garage in 1978, they then moved to the John Deere building in 1979 and finally to where they currently reside on Main Street in 1995.

So what has supported the business?

Cornella and Secretary Sandy Erdman said some people are just looking for a bargain. But other factors working in their favor include support from the other end, generous donators. Both have said that they have been fortunate to receive very nice items over the years.

Another factor in their success is the proximity in which their customer base comes from.

“We’re seeing clients coming in from a wider, and wider range,” Cornella said.

She told the Record that she has regular customers from as far west as Beach, and as far north as the Bottineau area. Erdman added that she knows a group from the west coast that make a trip to the Clothes Closet each year they come out for hunting season.

Though items are priced at cents and dollars—the highest items of clothing cost $3—the store generates enough to donate a large amount of money each year, upwards of $25,000 is some years.

When the closet was initially started, they focused their efforts on tornado and fire relief. Currently they support a wide range of community projects. Twice a year the group holds a meeting, and at the meeting various organizations bring their projects to the group and ask for help in financial support. If there is a medical benefit, or say someone or a family is affected by a fire, there is no debate, the treasurer just writes a donation check.

But they have supported many organizations around the community, like the fire department.

Part of what helps the organization donate so much money throughout the year is the generosity of the patrons. Many times the employees see customers giving up their change and overpaying for their items just to support the organization’s mission.

But the store also has a reputation for good, quality items. And it isn’t unheard of to make more than $100 in a single day. Keep in mind that though the store is open six days a week, the operating hours are only from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

The store also thrives because of the passion of it’s volunteers. Currently they have 66 people who donate their time, two of which have been there since the beginning in 1977. One of the two original volunteers will turn 90 this spring, and still comes and helps when she can.

Erdman said she has a wish list for 2017: clean and usable items, bags and items light enough to lift—because she said they can certainly add up, volunteers willing to donate just over three hours of their time once a month, and customers to shop so that they can continue to serve the community.

Currently serving on the board are Cornella, Erdman, Libby Gravning, Barb Rose, Ginnie Earsley, Lisa Harvester, and Susan Miller.