EAST PEORIA – Opening a thrift store is more about enhancing the community than making money for Morton native Savannah Kutkat.
Items donated to Enough Stuff Thrift Shop & Community Space in East Peoria are free. While customers can leave a one-time monetary donation, Kutkat is hoping the shop will be supported by community members who pay a monthly subscription of $10, $20 or $50.
Kutkat, 32, who was sitting at a sewing machine making a pillow from an old athletic shirt on Wednesday afternoon, hopes the shop will become a community center where people can drop off old goods, shop and perhaps even take a class – like how to upcycle old clothing.
"I’m just learning to sew," said Kutkat, while proudly displaying a teddy bear made from an old Superman swimsuit and a shirt deemed unsaleable.
Both recycling and community are the themes of Kutkat’s shop, an endeavor she dreamed about long before making it a reality. A recent life change brought her home after six years in Portland. Moving back into the family home gave her the financial freedom to open the shop.
"When I was in Oregon, I was taking steps to make this happen, but I didn't have enough money. I was researching how to become a non-profit and write grants. But when I moved here I had enough money to where I could just pay the rent," said Kutkat.
Because it was easier, Kutkat opened the shop without becoming a non-profit, so donations aren’t tax deductible. But that doesn’t seem to have been a deterrent to folks wanting to donate – Kutkat has received more than enough stuff.
"The items that go the quickest are kitchen items, so I’m always excited to get donations of that kind of stuff, and clothing. Kitchen and clothing are where it’s at," she said.
A nationwide overabundance of stuff is one of the reasons Kutkat saw a need for her shop. It's a way to redistribute goods throughout the community.
"The idea is to create a space where people who have more and people who have less can exist in the same space together," said Kutkat. "So we can connect these communities and all the people in between. Here, we have things on the shelves because you like to recycle, you like to reduce the amount of new things that you are buying, or the things that you are throwing away. And if you are truly in need, you can come here and get things for as little money as you need to get them, even for free."
It’s a lot like the service some churches provide, but open to everyone in the community, not just the parishioners of a specific church.
"When I was in Oregon, I was going to this church and they had a free store in their basement. I was super fascinated by this. It was completely self-regulated, people donated things and people took things, nobody was ever in the store to keep an eye on it," said Kutkat, who thought she could improve on the idea by providing a shop accessible to everyone with regular hours. Kutkat’s ultimate goal is to also provide other services, like a food pantry and a job board where people can volunteer services to help others.
Last week the shop was filled with a variety of items, from dishes to decorative items and clothing. Along with donated goods, there were also hand-made items for sale, including little crocheted animals made by Kutkat’s mother and fine art prints made from original artwork Kutkat painted. Outfitted with a sitting area, free coffee and Wi-Fi, the shop is also designed to be a community gathering place.
While goods are free, there are still operating costs – so Kutkat is asking for community support through subscriptions.
"Our monthly bills are around $1000 a month. The first couple weeks we were open we brought in about $400 so we were at like 40%," said Kutkat. "Right now, I’m basically just volunteering. My goal is not necessarily to make money doing this, but to make money so the shop can sustain itself and continue to be here."
Kutkat is pleased with the response she’s gotten so far. Advertised solely through the business Facebook page, word has gotten out and provided a steady stream of both customers and donations.
"I was super happy with that considering the pandemic and the fact that I didn’t do any real marketing," said Kutkat.
Open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, the shop may have more hours in the future with the help of volunteers, Kutkat said.
By asking the community to support Enough Stuff Thrift & Community Space, Kutkat is asking her neighbors to buy into an ideology.
"If you believe in this kind of community and want to see it continue, then we gotta pay the bills," said Kutkat. "I’m putting my faith in the people of this community to show up and help provide the service to people."
Enough Stuff Thrift & Community Space is located at 422 E. Washington Street in East Peoria. For more information, go to enoughstuffclub.com or search for their Facebook page by the same name.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 270-8503 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.