New shop, new mission
by Billie Ochberg
Published in March, 2019
The Nu2U resale shop in the Commons at Sauk Trail closed last fall after seven years in business. Now its space is home to a new nonprofit thrift store, Nu2U Again.
"We thought about coming up with a new name, but Nu2U had such a well-established following, we didn't want to change it too much," says Lisa Rentschler, the new shop's executive director. While Nu2U benefited the Washtenaw Christian Academy, Nu2U Again supports local organizations that help people with special needs. It's a mission close to Rentschler's heart: Her son, Connor, a senior at Saline High School, is on the autism spectrum.
"When I learned that Nu2U was closing, I knew I wanted to do this, to replicate its model and offer opportunities for people with special needs," Rentschler says. But when she approached the public schools to see if they'd operate the store she was met with, as she puts it, "lots of buts."
Next she went to her church, but it didn't have the funds.
"So, I went to my husband," she says. "We'd have to personally guarantee the lease for five years, upwards of $500,000." She laughs as she mimics her husband Greg's initial reaction: "Are you kidding me?"
But "after a lot of talking, we signed on the dotted line," she says. She, her staff of eleven, and a few volunteers blasted out social media announcements about the store's reopening, its mission, and its need for volunteers and support. The Rentschlers say they haven't recouped their initial investment yet but are making enough to pay the rent. And "we've made connections with area services," she says, "and the outpouring of support and love has been overwhelming."
Along with financial support for special needs organizations, Rentschler says, "we also offer opportunities for students and adults with special needs to work here. That way they gain job skills, and that promotes independence."
As if on cue, Jon Pearlstein and his mother Vincine come by to
check in, say hello to Rentschler, and pet Willow, a yellow lab pup that has become the store's unofficial mascot. "Today is Jon's first day of work," Rentschler smiles. His mother's pride is palpable as he politely introduces himself, shakes hands, carefully spells his name for the record, and dons his purple Nu2U Again work apron.
"He'll be twenty-eight years old in March," his mother explains. "This is his first job. He'll be getting paid. I don't how much of the meaning of all this he understands yet, but ..." She nods and smiles, at a loss for words.
"Hiring Jon is one of the most rewarding aspects so far," says Rentschler. She expects that her son will also work at Nu2U Again after he graduates from high school.
The store occupies about 6,000 of the roughly 8,000-square-foot space. "We have a men's section, women's, children's, seasonal displays, furniture, textiles, housewares, and jewelry," says volunteer Shelly Fox.
"We organize the clothes by size, not color," Fox adds, showcasing a separate boutique area for higher-end brand names like Calvin Klein and Banana Republic. Rentschler credits several volunteers with retail backgrounds for making the shop well-organized, pleasing, and easy to navigate.
"We're always looking for more volunteers," she adds. The shop's Facebook page promises them "first dibs" on items that come into the store and a 10 percent discount."
Nu2U Again, 1311 E. Michigan Ave., Saline. (734) 944-1112. Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Sun. nu2uagain.com
[Originally published in March, 2019.]
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