Thrifty Ewe pleases herds of local resale shoppers with low prices
Milwaukee has a wide range of thrift shops, from the more upscale Rethreads in Riverwest and Bay View with hip, handpicked items that usually cost more than a few coins to South 13th Street's Marlene's, where almost everything in the shop is 50 cents.
Thrifty Ewe, 907 S. 1st St., falls on the bargain side of the resale coin. The items cost more than Marlene's, but are definitely cheaper than other area second-hand shops. For example, kids' clothing is $1, adult clothing ranges from $2 to $3, shoes are $1-$2.50 and suits and coats are $6.
The most popular items are women's clothing, and there's a large selection of shirts, pants, skirts and dresses for all seasons.
"I keep prices low because I'd rather just sell things cheaply and move them through," says Doug Berna, owner of Thrifty Ewe.
There's also very affordable glassware, books, comic books, videos, DVDs, CDs and a small selection of art and furniture. Tuxedos are also available for $10.
Berna opened the medium-sized, well-stocked shop about six months ago. Prior to moving into the large Walker's Point building that also houses Miller and Campbell Costume Service, the Thrifty Ewe was located at South 18th and Mitchell Streets.
Berna says he is a longtime thrifter who always wanted to start a store of his own, and finally did more than a year ago at the now-defunct Mitchell Street location. He says Walker's Point is a better fit for his business and he has connected with other local antique shops, as well as a shop called Milwaukee Thrift, 4202 S. Howell Ave.
"I like the Walker's Point neighborhood. The neighborhood association here is great," he says. "I really like Zak's Cafe, too."
The available goods include clothing, housewares and some antiques. Berna accepts donations and he will take nicer items on consignment.
"I'm particularly interested in getting more housewares," says Berna, who is from Wausau but has lived in Milwaukee for 20 years.
In the past, he has donated a portion of Saturday sales to the Hope House, 209 W. Orchard St., which provides services for homeless people. He also worked with the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW).
Erin Fritsch – a bartender at Art Bar, 722 E. Burleigh St., who also runs an eBay business selling vintage items under the name modernluv13 – has worked with the Thirfy Ewe on numerous occasions. She visited the shop in the former location and donates the remaining items from the annual Art Bar rummage sale every summer to Berna's business.
"It's nice because they pick everything up for you so you don't have to deal with it," she says. "I have shopped there before, too, and things are super cheap."
The Thrifty Ewe, which was named by one of Berna's friends, advertises itself as a "family" business, meaning it's part of the LGBT family.
When asked how he competes with other thrift stores in the area which have a larger selection, he says with a smile, "I really don't. But I do what I can."
This fall, Berna plans to have an outdoor rummage sale in front of the shop with the Kosciuszko Center. Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee.com for more information when it becomes available.
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