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Thrift store also a place of refuge

Sun., April 4, 2010, midnight

Jimmy and Renee Wolf are the owners of New 2 U Thrift Store in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka)
Jimmy and Renee Wolf are the owners of New 2 U Thrift Store in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka)

Treasure trove doubles as safe place, reflecting owners’ background

When Renee Wolf left her old life on the West Coast to start fresh in North Idaho, leaving behind a violent ex-husband, she vowed to help any domestic abuse victim who crossed her path.

A decade later, Wolf is in a healthy relationship with husband Jimmy Wolf, and the couple – married 10 years – recently opened the New 2 U Thrift Store, which also acts as a shelter and intermediary information center for anyone experiencing domestic abuse situations.

The business is as much fulfilling a personal goal for Wolf as it is a longtime dream of hers to open her own shop.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while,” she said, adding that they’ve accumulated a lot of odds-and-ends through eBay sales and area auctions that are all for sale in their multiroom store. Added Jimmy about the decision to start a business: “It’s one of those things where if you don’t do it, then you probably never will.”

The couple, who met after she moved to the Lake City in 2000, opened the Third Street shop in early February in the former home of the Yarn Barn in Coeur d’Alene’s midtown. New 2 U Thrift features a variety of previously used items, including books, boots, kids’ and adults’ clothes, furniture, hardware, toys, appliances and other items.

However, it’s the owners’ commitment to victims of domestic violence that is also an important part of the business. The store is a participating member of the Project Safe Place program, a collection of more than 100 Kootenai County locations that voluntarily serve as shelters and intermediaries for at-risk youth. The Wolfs, though, want people to know that regardless of age or gender, anyone who is being abused, neglected, threatened, or is in immediate danger, can find a safe place at their store.

“When I was going through it in California, there was really no place to go,” Renee Wolf explained about her previous marriage, recalling a time when she was thankful an insurance salesman in California hid her in a backroom of his office one afternoon after she’d left her house. As the owner of an establishment, she said it was a personal mission to be able to provide support for abuse victims, whether with a fresh set of clothes, a place to find shelter, or to find contact information on local groups and organizations that can further help out.

They also accept donations from the public.

“People need to know there is help out there,” she added. “I’m not professing to be a counselor. I’m just here for whatever they need. If somebody is in distress, we can help them out; we can hide them or whatever.”

As for their selection, Renee and Jimmy have amassed a treasure trove of found and previously owned items through their years of thrift shopping. An alligator head greets customers at the register, and the store is arranged into separate rooms, with displays and shelves stocked with everyday things at low prices.

On a recent weekday afternoon, a customer named Angie sought out the store to drop off some items for domestic abuse victims. After unloading several bags of clothes and some work boots and dress shoes, Angie said she feels it’s vital as a community to support those in need.

“As far as I’m concerned, helping domestic violence victims and helping people get out of that situation is important,” she said. “And my opinion as a woman is it’s important for women to know they can get out.”

A few minutes later, local thrift-store shoppers Penny Aeschliman and Jody Medved came in to browse the collection. “They have a good variety,” Aeschliman said about New 2 U’s offerings.

As for her penchant for finding great deals and unique buys at the handful of thrift stores that dot the midtown area, she added, “It’s like a sport,” referring to the popular pastime of thrift-store hopping. “You can find some really good deals. It’s the hunt that I enjoy.”

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