“It’s part of Montessori pedagogy that there’s supposed to be a community store so students can participate in a microeconomy and interact with the community,” says Erin Milligan, director of the Christian Montessori School of Ann Arbor. Still, she says, “I don’t think there’s another Montessori school with a store anything close to this size.”

ShareHouse, on Jackson Road two doors down from the school, has 72,000 square feet filled with furniture, clothing, household goods, and plenty of weirdly unclassifiable kitsch. Most of what’s open to the public is neatly organized, but a quick and very cold tour around the enormous and partially insulated pole barn showed it to be jammed to the rafters with people’s castoffs waiting to be sorted and priced. (“Yes, we take donations,” Milligan says, politely, and a little reluctantly, gazing at the piles of future merchandise, “but we’re trying to move stuff, and our prices are really good.”)

ShareHouse has operated since last summer but only recently added the large sign that makes the big blue warehouse much more visible. Milligan guarantees her prices are the lowest in town: “Some things are even free. And people come in with vouchers from social service agencies. We’ll work with just about anyone.”

A share of the store’s income finances scholarships to CMSAA (where annual tuition can run as much as $10,000). But most of the revenue is being used to pay the $1 million mortgage on the building, which the school bought from D & C Plumbing & Heating Supply two years ago, Milligan says, “when the economy was a whole lot better. At that time we were thinking we’d be able to start a capital campaign to raise the money and renovate the building to use as space for the school.”

ShareHouse is staffed by students and volunteers–and has one paid employee, manager Jim Daratony, an energetic, smiling presence with a lively sense of humor. He’s responsible for the disgusting plate of stale-looking chocolate candy at the cash register bearing a Post-it note that says “Please Do Not Eat the Candy.” Its proximity to a spilled cup of coffee makes it even more unappetizing.

“Then why do you put it out here, if you can’t eat it?” a querulous customer asks–probably not the first to be taken aback. Daratony invites the customer to take a closer look at the display–like the coffee, it’s plastic. “We had to put the sign up,” he explains. “People just kept trying to pick it up.”

ShareHouse, 5161 Jackson Rd. 222-0876. Tues.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Closed Sun. www.cmsaa.org/sharehouse.html

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