Thrift store Aurora’s Closet is classic with its recycled treasures but original with its community service

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Aurora’s Closet on the corner of W. Grand River Avenue and S. Putnam Street in downtown Williamston is open for business on Saturday Feb. 4 minutes after owner Janet Stumpf restocked the “Giving Tree” for passing customers. Photo by Sarah Moore.

WILLIAMSTON, Mich. — Three drying racks displaying an assortment of bagged toiletries and clothes, also known as, “Aurora’s Closet’s Giving Tree,” is a year-round occurrence. The owner, Janet Stumpf, has been leading the family business for eight years, and when asked who the tree is for, she said, “anyone who needs it.” 

With 26 consignors, the store represents a healthy interdependent relationship with Williamston’s community. By receiving donations, the store can offer low prices, and occasional free support to those struggling to provide for themselves or their families. 

Janet and her daughter, Jennifer, run the store with a simple model: helping and giving. Each price tag is handwritten, and the bookkeeping system is a singular three-ringed binder. The quantity of toys, clothes, and furniture is impressive, and the quality doesn’t waver. Janet examines the clothing and says, “I don’t put anything out    that I wouldn’t put my own children in,” or her granddaughter, Aurora, who the store is named after. Even with the difficulties of running a small business, being a shoulder to lean on is worth the work.

Racks of clothing organized by size take up most of the space in the store. Photo by Sarah Moore.

The entrepreneurial spirit carries to Jennifer as she runs her business alongside Aurora’s Closet. Her business Dance On Dancewear sells Irish dance products to dancers around Michigan. Sold in store, Jennifer makes bedazzled shoe buckles, a product made to attract the audience’s attention. 

The local efforts to make resources accessible broaden to the state. In the current economic climate, budgeting or getting a second job may be essential to meet needs. On January 25, Governor Gretchen Whitmer delivered her 2023 State of the State Address at the Capitol, and financial relief was an emphasized topic. In short, the Lowering MI Costs plan introduced early in her speech consists of three parts: lowering the retirement tax, increasing the Working Families Tax Credit, and offering Pre-K to all families.  

Whitmer says, “Michigan, the state of our state is: strong and ready to go,” and “with inflation, every dollar saved makes a difference. That’s why we’re moving fast.” 

With a similar idea, “Aurora’s Closet’s Giving Tree,” is there to help without hesitation or judgment. Janet plans to stay in business for years to come and keep the tree full of what the community needs. As winter comes to a slow end, the warm weather allows racks of clothes, and boxes of trinkets to be placed along the sidewalks.

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