Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Monarch Thrift Shop is in Logan Square but we have corrected it to properly reflect Avondale. However, we cover stories and businesses in Logan Square’s neighboring communities that have an effect on the Logan Square community and are close to our borders, such as Avondale, Humboldt Park and Hermosa.
You may know Monarch Thrift Shop (2866 N. Milwaukee Ave.) as your favorite place to find great deals (you did vote it Favorite Thrift Shop in our Best of Logan Square Awards this year!) but there is so much more behind the plethora of clothes and home decor deals located in the neighboring Avondale area.
Store Manager Christa Clumpner got the idea for this shop while working with a social services ministry in Chicago almost 20 years ago. Clumpner and her small but mighty team run the store with the help of volunteers; it is clear that their sense of teamwork and their connection to Monarch’s great mission is what keeps their business running.
Monarch Thrift Shop serves a strong purpose of acting to reduce recidivism, the tendency for a convicted criminal to reoffend and get behind bars again. Chicago has several City and nonprofit organizations focused on ending recidivism, particularly since Chicago’s recidivism rate is high—over 45 percent of formerly incarcerated people land back behind bars, according to a 2015 Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council report.
Mireya Fouche, a Monarch employee since they opened in 2015, explained that everything they do goes back to their core mission: Providing quality merchandise in a boutique environment where all proceeds benefit programs for vulnerable populations.
Before Monarch landed in Logan Square, they took about a year to decide on the perfect location that was accessible via public transportation and in a diverse area where they could meet the needs of those who cannot afford to shop elsewhere and who love to thrift. They strive to provide a boutique atmosphere with regularly rotating displays and a warm environment to each and every customer who walks through their doors.
Robert Rutherford is the inventory manager at Monarch and he is the first full-time employee to come to Monarch after being in and out of prison several times for felonies.
“When I came out there was no one really out there who wanted to support someone with felonies so it was really hard to get a job,” Rutherford said. “This place is so important to me.”
Clumpner and Rutherford go back about 20 years from her time at the social services ministry. When she had the idea for Monarch, she asked him to be on the advising board.
“I wanted to jump on board because this was something I always wanted to do,” Robert said. He helped open the store, volunteered for about six weeks until Clumpner offered him a full-time managing job. There is not a piece of clothing that enters the store that Rutherford doesn’t personally sort through and inspect before it hits the sales floor.
Monarch also gives young volunteers the chance to gain experience in retail and see every aspect of the business. They work with local volunteer programs to help benefit the neighborhood youth. This year, each of the three full-time employees had one volunteer shadow them to learn what the summer season was like in retail. They also have community volunteers who come in at various times throughout the week who sort the books or clean the shelves because it’s what they love to do!
Monarch Thrift Shop will be participating in National Thrift Store Day tomorrow, Aug. 17 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. T-shirts, sleeveless tops, tank tops and women’s shorts sleeve blouses will be on sale for $1 that day only! You can stock up for the school year for the entire family with this crazy deal!
Monarch regularly run sales, which you can find on their website or via their emails. They accept donations during store hours and will even pick up furniture donations if you submit it to their website. They also accept cash donations onsite and via their website.