Friday, March 28, 2014

Encore Magazine, April 2014 Cover Story: A Different Way of Knowing

Cover story by Zinta Aistars
April 2014 Issue of Encore

Area awareness of and efforts to aid those with autism gaining ground

By Zinta Aistars
Photos by Erik Holladay
When Bruce Mills, an English professor at Kalamazoo College, speaks about the experience of having a family member with autism, one of the first words he uses to describe that experience is “isolation.” In part, that isolation once came from the choices Bruce and his wife made about their family’s social life. It was difficult to take their son, Jacob, into public places — for fear of his sometimes disruptive and socially inappropriate behavior and for fear of being judged.
“I recall going to the movies as a family, with my wife, Mary, and our daughter, Sarah, and our son, Jacob,”
Click above to read the whole wonderful magazine!
Click above to read the whole wonderful magazine!
Mills says. “We sat in the far corner and brought various supplies along as distractions for Jacob, but at some point he got loud. Someone in front of us turned around and said, ‘If you were good parents, you’d know how to deal with this.’”
Mills sighs, remembering. “I went off on him. I felt hurt. I had begun to hope that we could be out there as a family, but we couldn’t.”
That was a long time ago. Today, Jacob is 21 years old and has earned a certificate of completion for high school. He spends much of his time creating art for greeting cards. He continues to live at home. In the community around him, awareness about autism has risen, but, Mills says, there is room for more compassion and understanding.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.  Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group. Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an ASD. Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females.” The causes remain under debate, although most experts agree that there is probably a genetic component.
 Jesse Carrington, assistant coordinator for intensive treatment at the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment, hugs Joel Macauley, 8, for whom Carrington  provides treatment.
Jesse Carrington, assistant coordinator for intensive treatment at the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment, hugs Joel Macauley, 8, for whom Carrington provides treatment.
“Having a son with autism has affected my personal and vocational journey,” Mills says. “I consider myself an advocate for those with autism and their families.”
As for that scene at the movie theater, it was only later, after giving it more thought, that Mills realized that he shouldn’t have been so put out by the other moviegoer, he says. “Thinking about it, I realized that moviegoer had a point too. He had every right to expect to enjoy a quiet movie.” But the important lesson to be learned, Mills says, was that no one should make quick and easy assumptions about the behavior of others. A tantrum in the grocery store aisle may not mean bad parenting.
Doing his part to help raise awareness about ASD, Mills has served in leadership roles with the Autism Society of Kalamazoo/Battle Creek and made presentations at national conferences. He also serves as a board member of The Gray Center, a nonprofit organization based in Grandville whose mission is to assist those affected by ASD.
Increasing understanding about autism drives Mills in these roles as well as in his academic work at Kalamazoo College and, most recently, as the author of An Archaeology of Yearning.
An Archaeology of Yearning is not solely about autism, but it is about my relationship with my son,” Mills says. “As my wife and I took turns putting him to bed, I would lie there beside him thinking of stories to tell. … There is such a beauty there. What a beauty it can be to see things a different way. His is a different way of knowing. I’m not going to say that autism is a gift, but I don’t know that I would eliminate autism. … Some of the behaviors need to be managed, but Jacob has been a gift to us.”
To help others to experience that different way of knowing, Mills teaches a writing course at Kalamazoo College called Crossing Borders: Autism and Other Ways of Knowing, in which he matches first-year students with families affected by autism for 10 weeks. By putting students deep into the lives of others unlike themselves, he teaches them the difference between reading and writing about a topic like autism and coming to know it up-close. “I want students to experience what it means to live with someone with special needs and not be fearful of that,” Mills says.
A center for treatment
Yet there are families struggling with autism who have challenges that go beyond what Mills addresses. The Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research opened its doors at 9616 Portage Road in August 2012. The center, managed by Residential Opportunities Inc. (ROI) and Western Michigan University, provides outpatient services but also offers a residential wing to analyze and treat children from ages 6 to 17 with dangerous behavioral problems.
Scott Schrum is CEO of Residential Opportunities Inc., which operates the
Scott Schrum is CEO of Residential Opportunities Inc., which operates the
“We looked at the growing need in the community to provide a residential program for children exhibiting aggressive, self-injurious behavior,” says Scott Schrum, CEO of ROI. “Our focus is on children who are ruining their families, making normal family life impossible. Our planning committee had been looking at this need for five years. We accepted our first resident the day after we opened.”
The autism center helps children with challenging behaviors develop skill sets so that they don’t have to live in institutions, Schrum explains.
“Violence and aggression are not inherent in autism,” says Calvin Gage, assistant director of Residential Services for the center. “It develops from a lack of communication skills in children with autism. When you can’t communicate your needs, there’s a lot of frustration. That child wants a glass of water but doesn’t know how to ask for it so ends up hitting people to get attention. Aggression becomes the way to communicate.”
What the center staff does, Schrum says, is work on language development, an area of great challenge for people with autism. “We teach a picture-exchange communication system called PECS. You look at a glass of water in a picture, put it in the child’s hands, the child shows the picture to staff — and a glass of water appears. If you want to play a game, you use a picture of a game to get access to that game.”
The diagnosis of children with autism is increasing by 10 to 17 percent every year, and the average cost to society of someone diagnosed with autism, through age 55, is currently estimated at $3.6 million. These statistics come from the Centers for Disease Control, Autism Speaks, the National Autism Center and the Autism Alliance of Michigan, and they are shown in the margins of the local autism center’s website as a reminder to all that care for people with autism is unavoidable and on the increase.
“That cost may be even higher today,” Schrum says. “But with early diagnosis and intensive therapy, that cost can be half as much. An investment of $50,000 early on can really pay off.”
Many children are diagnosed with autism around age 2, although a pediatrician may see initial red flags when a child is ...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A revolution that can change the world, one backyard at a time

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
March 27, 2014

Tom Small (Photo by Erik Holladay)

As the world changes at a pace that is impossible to keep up with, a grassroots movement wants to help communities cope with what's ahead. Zinta Aistars has the story on the Transition Movement. 

Even fans of snow say this past winter has been a bone chiller. In fact, it's been one of the warmest winters on record. 

"It's been the fourth warmest January on record for the globe," says Tom Small. "That's the big picture people keep missing. The polar vortex was caused by the warming temperatures far up north."

Tom Small is professor emeritus of English at Western Michigan University, but he has a second passion that in retirement years has grown to be his foremost work. 

Small spends his time now teaching others about climate change and offering suggestions for what he calls a Climate Action Plan. 

"I'm still a teacher," he says. "It's who I am."

He, along with his late wife Nancy Cutbirth Small, is the author of "Using Native Plants to Restore Community in Southwest Michigan and Beyond," a project he completed after her death in 2009. 

The Smalls also co-founded the Kalamazoo area chapter of Wild Ones, or KAWO, a nonprofit organization that encourages people to learn about and plant native plants.

Going native is a large part of Small's Climate Action Plan, a plan he has been sharing in a busy schedule of presentations. 

Two recent presentations have included "Biodiversity and Climate Change: Towards a Climate Action Plan for Kalamazoo," "Climate Change and the Transition Movement to Resilient Community," and a public conference called "Biodiversity and Climate Change: Towards a Climate Action Plan for Kalamazoo," sponsored by Kalamazoo Nature Center and Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones.  

Small is in his second year of presenting a two-year series, "Saving Native Plant Diversity: Promoting and Preserving Biodiversity," that he offers on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., at First United Methodist Church, 212 Park Street, downtown Kalamazoo.

Small and his current wife Ruth also take people on field trips to various preserves and nature areas, including their personal gardens. An upcoming presentation will be held April 26 at W. K. Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 East Gull Lake Drive in Hickory Corners, as part of Garden Education Day.

Returning to native plants, Small says, is part of the growing Transition Movement,  a grassroots movement that seeks to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change, and the economic crisis.

"Although we're not doing it fast enough. We are losing bees, butterflies, plants--our biodiversity is decreasing. That's dangerous. Diversity is what gives a system resilience. Resilience is how we handle a crisis. A monoculture is very vulnerable to destruction."

The Transition Movement goal, Small explains, is to ...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Last Hula: Poems of a Father's Last Aloha (My radio interview with Elizabeth Kerlikowske)

by Zinta Aistars
Radio interview at WMUK 102.1 FM
Kalamazoo, Michigan's NPR affiliate station

Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Kellogg Community College professor and local poet Elizabeth Kerlikowske will be reading from her chapbook Last Hula on Wednesday, March 26, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Parchment Community Library in Parchment, Michigan. It’s a look back at the last few months of her father's life.

Kerlikowske says the title of the chapbook comes from the sort of hand motions her dad would act out while lying in his bed.
"Like he would be stringing Christmas lights, you could just tell that was what he was doing. Or he would be shaping things or cleaning things," she says.
"So his hands were moving all the time and it seemed like the most dancing he could do at that moment."
Kerlikowske's poetry is grounded in the grit of real life, no outlandish embellishments here.
She compares her style of writing in Last Hula to that famous line from Jack Webb from Dragnet"Just the facts, Ma'am." 
"I felt like I wanted to present things with...definitely without being pretty," Kerlikowske says.
"My goal in writing this was not to ..."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Roses are red, violets are blue; when you think of poetry, think Kalamazoo

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
March 20, 2014

Marsha Meyer and George Martin (Photo: Erik Holladay)

A lot of poetry is being created in the Kalamazoo area. The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival was created to make sure everyone knows about it. Zinta Aistars talks with the organizers about the area's first festival for poets, poetry lovers, and the poetically curious.

Think poetry and thoughts may wander to big cities, the east or the west coast. Think poetry, and the first image that comes to some minds are thick, dusty tomes filled with dense, difficult-to-understand language. Think poetry and the poets that appear in imaginations are solitary individuals bent over their paper littered desks in ivory towers. 

The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, April 4 to April 5 with events throughout Kalamazoo, is about to dispel such notions. The festival coincides with National Poetry Month, so Kalamazoo Poetry Festival is encouraging regional groups to schedule their own celebrations of poetry, ranging from writing workshops for youth to readings and performances.

"Poetry is flourishing in Kalamazoo more than most of us realize," says George Martin, one of the founders of the new festival. His hope is that the festival will become an annual or bi-annual event. "Our idea was to recognize and celebrate poets in Kalamazoo, and to let people know what a thriving community of writers we have here."

While some of Kalamazoo’s poets have earned regional and national attention, garnering awards, others are not yet as well known, Martin says. Literary organizations bustle each in their own niche, he says, but may not realize what others are doing to create and promote poetry. 

"We want to celebrate the power of poetry to connect people," says Marsha Meyer, program director at Portage District Library and steering committee member of the Kalamazoo Poetry Festival. "We want this festival to create partnerships and raise awareness. We want to open poetry up to the wider community. In that sense, it’s much more than a two-day event. Our hope is to spark more poetry events throughout the year."

Throughout the weekend, the Festival will offer readings, craft talks, and workshops featuring some of the region’s most celebrated writers, including Traci Brimhall, Danna Ephland, Diane Seuss, John Rybicki, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Susan Ramsey and Denise Miller. Joining the local pool of talent are nationally acclaimed poets Aracelis Girmay and Ilya Kaminsky.

"We chose Aracelis Girmay and Ilya Kaminsky because ... "


Adding to the fun, I have been invited to be the moderator on a panel with Aracelis Girmay and Ilya Kaminsky. Join us if  you are in the area, toss me your questions to ask these two remarkable poets: 

Craft Talk and Q&A with Aracelis Girmay and Ilya Kaminsky
Olmsted Room, Kalamazoo College
Saturday, April 5, 2014
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Sunday, March 09, 2014

One of Many

by Zinta Aistars

My favorite church, the one I  hold most sacred, can be found right here at Z Acres, my 10-acre farm in southwest Michigan. When my heart is full and brimming over, and I need to spill my concerns to a higher power, I head out back into the meadow, or up the hill into the woods. I see and feel Him there. He's everywhere, but when I see the hawks soar through the blue overhead, or hear the whisper of a breeze in the leaves of the forest trees, I feel the connection, unobstructed. I feel heard and I feel held.

Very soon, on March 23, 2014, I will be celebrating my second anniversary at Z Acres. As I stand on the brink of my third year on this beautiful retreat from the so-called civilized world, I feel how deeply my roots have grown here in this relatively short time. I came here on a leap of faith, and so many times over my first two years here, I have had to trust in nothing more, nothing less than faith to get me through. In fact, I've come to believe that this is the very premise on which I live here and why I was brought here, because I also believe nothing happens by chance. There is purpose in the chaos. I am here for a reason, perhaps several reasons, and my living here is a discovery of what those reasons might be.

The day before I moved in, I stood outside on the back deck, in the sun-dappled shade of a spring sun, and I prayed: "Catch me." My life was changing in a big way with this move, and I was about to take some tremendous risks alongside getting a new address. Among them was my leaving corporate America to begin my own business even as I established myself in my new home. I was breaking away from a predictable paycheck to follow yet another dream of building a full-time freelance writing and editing service. I was going for it all. Cake and icing and eating it, too.

Would He catch me if I made the leap? He did. At the end of my first year, I turned in an income tax return with numbers on the bottom line that I had never achieved before in my entire working life, and it was enough to carry me through a more temperate second year, when I was hit by several unexpected financial blows. Whenever I teetered on the edge of anxiety about my feast-or-famine lifestyle, I found myself going back out into the vast field, turning my face to the sky, and having a one-on-One again. Whenever I tried to control my own journey, things got complicated and I tended to choose the wrong way. Whenever I trusted in that path, gave myself over to it and took another leap of faith, a net would appear and the path would smooth out again.

We have a good thing going here at Z Acres, me and Him. We're connected. But something was still missing. I'd been busy building my life, setting down roots, building my business, becoming self-sustaining. On the brink of my third year, I thought it might be time to reach out rather than in.

Out there is a community I have barely touched upon. Community ... I had been giving the idea of community a lot more thought lately. What does it mean? That saying, "it takes a village," has a lot of truth behind it. When I was young, oh I was so all-powerful. I knew it all, I could do it all, I needed nobody. My politics and my personal convictions were those of independence, and if I failed, it was all my fault and it was also all on me to pick myself up again.

Life taught me so many harsh lessons ...

For one thing, I have learned I am a survivor. I am a lot stronger than I realized. I am also a lot more foolish than I realized. I am capable of making sloppy decisions and some whopping mistakes. I let people into my heart that did not deserve to be there. I learned I could endure and overcome great obstacles, but I also learned I wasn't nearly as all-powerful as I liked to imagine. I wasn't in control of all the many circumstances that affect the direction of my life. In fact, I had control over very few of them. Maybe none of them.

One of the bravest moments of my life was when I learned to accept that now and then, here and there, I needed community. One of the hardest things to do was to learn how to ask for help when I truly needed it. Asking for a hand took a lot more courage, I found, than standing alone.

Get that hand, pull up again, and I was off and running. Being dependent for a moment in time restored me to independence. My big lesson was that circumstances sometimes take control, no matter how hard we work, no matter how right we are ... and that sometimes, sometimes we all need a hand up.

That's community. Community consists of our families, our friends, our neighbors, the village or town or city where we live, the country where we fly our flag, and, finally, the Earth where we all live together, and the mysterious and infinite Universe that surrounds us. Rings upon rings of community built one upon the other.

My own Home at long last established, I was ready to give something back. I had reached that point of interdependence, a mix of standing alone, accepting help when I needed it, and now able to reach out and take my turn at helping others. We all need to take our turn. That's how it works.

Actually, for those who still chafe at the idea of community and interdependence ... there are a great many scientific studies that show altruism is a great cure for shaky self-esteem and depression and general feelings of helplessness. Nothing lifts the spirits like helping others. It's neat, really. Reach out to give a hand and you end up helping yourself. If it suits you better, consider it a healthy kind of selfish.

I'm a church-hopper. I hop from one to the next, looking for the one that will hold me. Hm, that sounds an awful lot like how I spent much of my life looking for Home ... until I found it at Z Acres. In a church, I am looking for a congregation that knows how to hold its own, has plenty of history, but isn't in some techno future of big screens of splashy effects, orchestras and bands, and seating for thousands. That's just not me. I like a little tradition. Stained glass windows and wooden pews, a pastor who knows everyone by name, and a sense of community. And, of course, sermons that make me think, stretch my comfort zone, teach and guide and challenge me. I want a place where I can make a difference and make a contribution that goes beyond the dollar in the offering plate.

I live between the much larger cities of Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids in Michigan, and so I have gotten  used to going north or south to meet various needs. I've been disappointed in what I have found in churches, however, for a great many reasons. Maybe look closer to Home? Go west? I'm just a few miles from the small, rural town of Allegan, and when I did a quick search, I found many churches there, many denominations, but one in particular caught my attention. A woman pastor, nice, someone I could relate to ... too many times in my church-hopping, I found myself feeling turned away by the male dominance I found there, getting subtle messages about being less than my male counterparts in His eye. Rib and all that. Somehow, I didn't think so.

Other aspects of this church attracted me. A diverse congregation with a lot of community outreach. Finally, I had a Sunday morning to spare, with sunshine thawing the roads, and I went to visit. A greeter smiled at me as I walked up to the door and beckoned me in. A kind elderly woman took my coat when I walked in, and an elderly man hung it up for me. Pastor Karen seemed to notice me as a new face as soon as I walked into the sanctuary, and when I sat down toward the back, she made a beeline for me with outstretched hand. She introduced herself, asked my name, and by golly, actually remembered it later on. We chatted for a moment before the service began, and I told her I had read some of her sermons online and enjoyed them. She had spoken about taking care of the environment as God's gift, and she had spoken about a woman's role in the church. I had a sense she would get me ... and help me answer a few questions that had long nagged at me.

In this Sunday's sermon, as if she had heard my innermost thoughts, she spoke of community. Christ in the desert faced many temptations, and one of those was to isolate Himself. It was tempting to become self sustaining, drawn in, and not take risks on the mess of relationships with other members of the community. Community and being an active member of ours was something He expects us to do.

The church had a long, rich history, reaching back into the 1800s. I looked around to see a small congregation. Later, I would meet several members in their late 90s, while others were still in their teens. At one point, I noticed a space cut into the pews, and I realized it was for a wheelchair. Not at the back of the church. Right smack in the middle of it. I noticed a few visible disabilities among members, while the rest of us were better at hiding ours.

I didn't mean to stay. I just went downstairs to the restroom before driving back home after the service. But as I came out, someone smiled at me, someone else offered me a cookie and apple cider, and Pastor Karen popped in again. We ended up sitting at a table talking long after everyone else had left.

I told her some of the reasons I had come to church this Sunday. I shared a few things I rarely share. I asked about opportunities to get involved. I asked about the various programs, the book club, the community lunch, and when I came up with a program the church didn't currently have, the pastor suggested I start it up. They would help me.

Then she gave me a hug. I drove home smiling. It was good to get involved. To be a member of ... and to now and then say a prayer in the company of other human beings rather than trees and chickens. Not that that is a bad way to talk to Him. All His creatures. I was just ready now to get involved with some of the more difficult, two-legged ones.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Fiesta by Blanca ... in demand

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Southwest Michigan's Second Wave Media
March 6, 2014

Blanca Cardoza making salsa (Photo by Erik Holladay)

Salsa has overtaken ketchup as the No. 1 condiment in the land. And Blanca Cardoza is finding the marketplace for her salsa, Fiesta by Blanca, is wide open. Zinta Aistars talks with the budding entrepreneur about the appeal of the spicy condiment that updates family recipes to reflect today's tastes.

It's a good problem to have: Blanca Cardoza is less than three months into her new business of selling salsas and is already looking for help to handle the volume. 

"I’m selling more than I thought I would, and faster," says Cardoza. "I’ve been doubling my business each week, and I’m reaching capacity."

Fiesta by Blanca, Cardoza’s cottage business of salsa made with fresh ingredients, launched in December 2013, with free tastings and demos at Natural Health Center at 4610 West Main in Kalamazoo.

"I was so nervous." Cardoza laughs. "I didn’t know what to expect, so I brought everything I had, but the response was so great. It was a good way to launch. Two times a year, the store features local foods, with little tables everywhere."

From there, Cardoza placed her salsas in nearly a dozen local stores, including People’s Food Co-op, Tiffany’s Wine and Spirit Shoppe, Beer and Skittles, Bert’s Bakery, Youz Guys Sausage Company, and Harding’s in Parchment, on Drake Road in Kalamazoo, and in Woodbridge. This spring, her salsas will be on the menu at Hangar, a restaurant at 4301 West Main in Kalamazoo. 

Cardoza’s story began five years ago, with Cardoza giving away her homemade salsas to her clients at All About You hair salon in Milwood, where she has been a hairstylist more than 10 years and continues to put in around 30 hours even now while marketing her product every day. Cardoza gave the salsa away as holiday gifts, but her clients kept asking for more, encouraging her to consider selling it. Eventually, she listened.

That’s Cardoza’s salsa story, but her own story began in Mission, Texas, where she was born in a Mexican family that loved its salsas and served them with every meal. She moved to Michigan at age 7 when her mother was accepted as a student at Western Michigan University, and the family’s salsas came with them.

"My childhood was spent living with extended family under one roof," says Cardoza. "My grandmother made salsas and sauces from recipes that were passed on through generations in our family. We put it on everything. It’s part of my nationality. I took her recipes and made them healthier. Some of my uncles died of diabetes, so if my grandmother fried jalapenos, I cut them in fresh. My salsas are also low-sodium and gluten-free. People can enjoy my salsas and still eat healthy."

It took a grant of $8,500 from Can-Do Kitchen, part of the Fair Food Matters non-profit organization that helps people start food businesses, to give Cardoza the funding needed to launch her business.

But after two years perfecting the salsa recipes in her home kitchen, Cardoza had her dream nearly go up in flames when ...


Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Secondhand News: An Encore magazine cover story

by Zinta Aistars
Published in Encore Magazine
March 2014 Issue

Green’ and thrifty shoppers fuel growth of resale stores

 By Zinta Aistars
Photos by Erik Holladay
Thrift stores, secondhand stores, vintage stores. Call them what you will, but stores selling gently used items — from clothes and furniture to children’s gear and building materials — are popping up everywhere.  In Kalamazoo alone, an Internet search will turn up nearly 50 listings of secondhand stores, from shops that sell items on consignment to those that sell donated goods.
Click image to go to the article in our digital edition.
Click image to go to the article in our digital edition.
And this trend is happening not just in Southwest Michigan but nationally. According to the Association of Resale Professionals, the business of selling secondhand goods has become a $13-billion-a-year industry in the U.S., expanding about 7 percent per year over the last two years and attracting shoppers from all economic levels. According to America’s Research Group, a consumer research firm, about 16 to 18 percent of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, and 12 to 15 percent will shop at consignment or other resale shops. That’s compared to 19.3 percent who shop at retail clothing stores and 21.3 percent who shop at major department stores.
To define terms, a thrift shop is run by a not-for-profit organization and takes donations to fund charitable causes; a consignment shop pays the owners of the merchandise a percentage if and when the items are sold; other resale shops buy merchandise from individual owners to resell.
So, what’s driving the demand for secondhand stores?  On one hand, hard economic times have forced many people to find bargains where they can. On the other, generations have grown up on the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mantra and may just be exercising their ‘green’ philosophy.
“I’d say it’s a little of both trends,” says Lauren Worgess, owner of Loved Boutique, an upscale clothing resale shop at 116 W. South St., in Kalamazoo. “I’d definitely factor in the green aspect, but our clientele is very price-savvy.”
Clothing Connection's Janice Penny, dressed in a vintage dress and hat, laughs whither mother and co-owner Barbara Howard.
Clothing Connection’s Janice Penny, dressed in a vintage dress and hat, laughs whither mother and co-owner Barbara Howard.
Thrift stores and other resale stores are not a new concept. What is new, however, is the rise of the thrift store shopper. “There was a stigma that’s been disappearing as thrift shops become more boutique-y,” says Michael Gold, founder of, a Vero Beach, Fla.-based directory of charity-based secondhand stores.
On consignment
Among those “boutique-y” shops are local stores such as Loved and Clothing Connection that specialize in selling clothes on consignment. Typically, most consignment stores offer 40 to 50 percent of the sale price to the consignor. Most also have criteria for clothing being seasonal, clean and without any stains or tears or odors such as cigarette smoke while offering discounted prices to customers the longer the item has been on the rack. Often, items remaining unsold after a given time, usually around 90 days, are donated to area charities.
Loved is one of those shops. “We focus on higher-end brands,” says Worgess, who stocks items from consignors not only from Kalamazoo, but from across the country, especially the Los Angeles area, where she has shopped herself.
“They wear a designer outfit once, and they’re done with it. We may carry a Ralph Lauren dress from such a consignor that cost $1,600, but we cut the price by 50 or 60 percent,” she says.
Christy Lansom's furniture consignment store, Christy's is moving to a larger location next month.
Christy Lansom’s furniture consignment store, Christy’s is moving to a larger location next month.
Worgess’ clientele ranges widely, from the college student looking for a special-occasion outfit on the cheap to the downtown professional woman shopping for a business suit at a savings. Loved recently stopped selling men’s clothing because ... READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE