Pat Stoeffler can vividly remember the day Fennimore’s Depot Exchange Thrift Store moved to its current location at 1170 Lincoln Avenue. The date was Aug. 20, 2007.
“It was sweltering hot and there was no air conditioning here,” Stoeffler recalls. “But we were really excited to be able to stretch out a little bit.
“It’s hard to believe how far we’ve come, it has been a really cool journey so far.”
The Depot Exchange celebrates its eighth anniversary in Fennimore this week. In conjunction with the anniversary, the store is holding a winter clearance sale March 1 through March 10. In addition, a coupon can be found in this paper and Monday’s Reminder.
Refreshments will be served each day of the anniversary celebration and in-store drawings will be held.
When the Depot Exchange opened eight years ago, it called the old feed mill on Madison Street its home.
“We thought that would be mighty fine to start in, and it was,” Stoeffler said. “We grew so fast, it became small.”
The Depot Exchange began with hopes of generating money to sustain a food pantry in Fennimore. That goal was accomplished just a year after the store opened.
The food pantry is open to residents of the Fennimore School District.
“Whether people visit one time, or month-after-month, that is OK,” Stoeffler said. “That is what we are here for, and it’s a good feeling to know how we are helping people in some way.”
Stoeffler noted in addition to maintaining the food pantry, the Depot Exchange will be offering up to five scholarships to members of Fennimore’s 2012 graduating class.
Shoppers of the Depot Exchange will find clothing, household items, toys, furniture, books and much more.
One customer purchased a pinball game for $10 and later reported they found the game routinely sold for over $100 on eBay.
“If you know what you are looking for, you are going to find some great stuff for just a little bit,” Stoeffler said.
Marlyn Redfearn of Fennimore is a frequent shopper of the Depot Exchange.
“This is my second home,” she said. “It is very convenient and the prices are reasonable.
“Sometimes I shop twice a week, it depends on how bored I am at home.”
Shoppers are asked their ZIP code at checkout. Stoeffler believes the store has had customers from every state in its eight years.
Those who have traveled from near and far to visit the Depot Exchange have left impressed.
“We’ve been told ‘This is the best store I’ve ever been in,” Stoeffler said. “That is what puts me on a high.
“All the work we go through is really paying off.”
Stoeffler manages a staff of three full-time and three part-time employees, and the many volunteers that help at the store.
“We receive so much support from the community,” she said. “We always welcome volunteers, whether it be on the cash register, sorting or pricing.
“We can cater to any interest.”
Sheila Linneman of Stitzer will be celebrating her fourth year at the Depot Exchange this August.
“I love helping people and the variety of things I can do at work,” she said. “I like the people I work with and Pat is awesome.”
The basement of the Depot Exchange reveals countless banana boxes filled with donations.
“The Platteville Thrift Shop shared the idea of the banana boxes,” Stoeffler said. “Kwik Trip provides ours and we’ve been filling them for eight years.”
Donations are accepted daily and clothing of all seasons is welcomed throughout the year. The store is closed on Sundays and holidays.
Luckily for the staff and customers, air conditioning has been installed since that sweltering August day in 2007. All new windows and doors have been installed on the south end of the building as well.
For Stoeffler, the staff and the shoppers of the Depot Exchange, the eighth anniversary is a great reason to celebrate.
“This is more than just a store, it’s a wonderful community project,” Stoeffler said. “Every day is a different day helping people, and I love that.”