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Treasure Haus celebrates 25 years of successful operations

May 16, 2010
By Serra Muscatello — Staff Writer

NEW ULM -When Treasure Haus Resale Shop first opened its doors for business in 1985, they began operations in what used to be called the Cold Storage Locker located on North State St.

It was only 14 months later, on June 28, 1986, that the store was completely devastated by a fire.

Treasure Haus Store Manager Marley Kuckhahn - who has been their since the store's beginnings - remembered it well.

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The Treasure Haus has been located at 1209 South Broadway in New Ulm since Nov. 2, 2002 but has been in business for 25 years.

"It burned down to nothing," said Kuckhahn, "I think ... it was some electrical thing in the basement ... we had scads of boxes of clothing in the basement."

A decision was made to keep the thrift store operation going so a space was rented on Fifth North and State St.

Right away donations started pouring in and they were back in business.

"It was unbelievable," said Kuckhahn, "That was kind of the worry we had, 'Where are we going to get more stuff?'"

Kuckhahn remembered there were many times the staff of the Treasure Haus had to go into a nearby liquor store to get their key to open the business.

"They didn't have keys for every crew," said Kuckhahn.

A couple of years later they were able to purchase a perfect building for the store.

"It was a beautiful, old house at 116 S. Minnesota St.," said Kuckhahn, "We thought it looked like a Treasure Haus. It served us well."

The only problem was that the house looked like a house a little ways down the street, said Kuckhahn.

"Those people kept getting donations at their door," said Kuckhahn, "One time, she said a lady walked in ... the owner must have come from the back of the house."

The woman who had walked in to this lady's home had asked, "Oh, isn't this the Treasure Haus?"

"I think she locked her front door after that," said Kuckhahn.

A new location was necessary when the steps to the basement at 116 S. Minnesota St. were becoming a problem for many of the volunteers, as well as not having enough space there. Another move proved to be the answer for the Treasure Haus.

The old Mayday Motors building located at 1209 S. Broadway was purchased to house the store. Following some renovations and additions the staff moved in to the new facility on Nov. 2, 2002.

"In April we celebrated 25 years in business by giving our customers 25 percent off most items in the store. The Lord has truly blessed our efforts," said Kuckhahn, "Never back then did I think 25 years down the road ... that I'd still be here."

There were a few people in the beginning who got the idea of having a resale shop going, Kuckhahn said.

"MVL (Minnesota Valley Lutheran High School) supporters (wanted the store) ... because they wanted a way to get some extra funds," said Kuckhahn, "And other Lutheran high schools had thrift stores supporting them."

There have always been plenty of volunteers to keep the store going, Kuckhahn said.

The volunteers represent 17 crews from 13 Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregations in 11 towns. People donate their time from as far away as Fairmont, St. Peter, Nicollet, Sleepy Eye, Morgan, St. James, Fairfax and Gibbon.

"That's one of the things that amazed me the most. There are so many people who give so much of their time," said Lynne Koepsell, of New Ulm, who also works as a store manager at the Treasure Haus, "I think it was cool how the Treasure Haus was started to help MVL, and yet it helps the community - it gives people a place to donate. It helps the volunteers - it gives them a place to serve the Lord and to have fellowship with other friends that are like them. It's just a win-win situation."

Anyone can make donations to the Treasure Haus. They have had some pretty interesting items donated over the years - one of the most unusual donations was a camel saddle. Another unique piece was a device for throwing clay pigeons.

Staff members once found a large stash of money in a packaged girdle. In a case like this, if there is some identification as to who the owner is the money will be returned to the person. If it has been too long and there is no way of knowing who it belongs to then it goes in the cash register.

Some donations were probably used as "white elephant gifts" that have come through the store several times. There are some items that are even used as inspiration for MVL art classes.

"We're still getting first-time donors and first-time customers coming in," said Kuckhahn, "They supply us with everything we sell."

Koepsell said they recycle many things at the Treasure Haus.

"The stuff doesn't go in the garbage then ... we do throw some things away ... but not much," said Koepsell, "Or we send some things on to DAV (Disabled American Veterans), and some of the clothing gets bundled and sent to Third World countries."

People will come in and get sheets that the store cannot sell and then use them to make quilts for World Relief, said Kuckhahn.

"Someone picks up jeans we can't sell because they will be made into rugs and we can sell the rugs," said Kuckhahn.

Often MVL high school students will come to help out at the store in January. Some of the MVL students have helped with some advertising for the Treasure Haus on KNUJ.

One thing that has stayed the same all these 25 years for Treasure Haus staff is their "banana box" method of organizing, Kuckhahn said.

"They have handles ... it's amazing how easy it is to pick up a banana box rather than going deeper to the floor and trying to pick up the box from underneath."

The Treasure Haus started out with each crew having a day manager. Then about four or five years later it turned in to a paid manager's position. Then there were two paid managers, then three paid managers and now back to two paid manager positions.

MVL High School receives 75 percent of the profits from the Treasure Haus and the remaining 25 percent is given to other non-budgeted, charitable programs (some local but not always). Treasure Haus is giving to a total of 13 charitable programs this year including Jesus Cares Ministries, Civilian Champlaincy Program, Mission to the Children and East Fork Lutheran Schools.

"We are also thankful for the support of the shoppers," said Kuckhahn, "Where would we be without customers!"

Some staff members and customers have developed lasting friendships over the years, said Koepsell.

The Treasure Haus staff also keeps an eye out for items that customers may be looking for, and, many times will find the items they want to buy.



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