DICSA reopens Denim Heart Thrift & Pantry in Kingsford
KINGSFORD — A local thrift store is able to continue its mission thanks to the assistance of the Dickinson-Iron Community Services Agency.
DICSA’s Denim Heart Thrift & Pantry reopened July 12 at its new location at 621 N. Hooper St. in Kingsford.
Former owner Melissa Stabbe founded the business in 2020 as a way to give back to the community. That October, Denim Heart opened on Merritt Avenue in Iron Mountain, offering clothing and household items at affordable prices or free of charge to those in need.
This spring, Stabbe made a tough decision to move out of state, which meant closing the store, which had moved in July 2021 to the Franklin Square Plaza in downtown Iron Mountain.
DICSA Executive Director Kristin Sommerfeld heard about the situation and felt strongly about carrying on the community-centered work of Denim Heart.
“I had an idea, but wasn’t quite sure of how we were going to proceed,” Sommerfeld said. “I just knew it was an important service and something needed to be done.”
She met with Stabbe in April to discuss the possibility of DICSA taking it over. “She was excited and open to it,” Sommerfeld said. “She also wanted us to keep the Denim Heart name.”
The next step was finding space. Sommerfeld approached Christina Ureta, DICSA’s commodities director, about the feasibility of converting a section of the DICSA pantry warehouse into a storefront.
“I was not even sure this would work,” she said. “But Christina not only loved the idea, she was excited about the additional service DICSA could offer.”
Denim Heart’s program manager Angela Elliott-Johnson and program assistant Cait Flynn were then brought in to approve the space. “They said they can make it work and that was it,” Sommerfeld said.
The team immediately got to work transforming 230 square feet into a welcoming retail shop.
“It was important to Melissa to keep the Denim Heart name and keep the ball rolling,” Elliott-Johnson said. “We have her blessing — it’s as important to us to keep it going for her.”
Services at Denim Heart have not changed — in fact, they’ve been expanded.
“We had started a food pantry before Melissa had left, but it was just a small area, which people donated items to,” Flynn said.
“Now we have expanded to the DICSA program,” Elliott-Johnson added.
The Dickinson County thrift store continues to sell gently used — and sometimes brand new — clothing for infants through adult sizes. The shop also offers footwear, housewares, toys, books and other items at reasonable prices. They have been able to provide this service with donations from supporters.
Those needing items that are not “budget-friendly” are welcome to shop for free. The food pantry also is based on need, and is not limited to quantity.
“They are just asked to fill out a simple form available at Denim Heart,” Ureta said. “It’s available to anyone, at any age, and income questions are only self-declared.”
Denim Heart has made a difference in many community members’ lives, Elliott-Johnson said.
People age 60 and older are able to sign up for the commodities supplemental food program, which is also income-based, at Denim Heart or the DICSA office. The bimonthly supplement includes canned foods, cereals, cheese, juice and more.
Once a person is qualified, they automatically qualify for a second program, Ureta explained.
“Our main goal remains to help people in the community,” Elliott-Johnson said.
The public is encouraged to stop in frequently, as new items are always being added. “You never know what we are going to get in,” Elliott-Johnson said. “We will also look out for sizes or specific items for people and call them if it becomes available. We try to do our best to assist.”
Denim Heart recently earned a grant that will allow them to expand their store space and sorting area, as well as add reach-in coolers and freezers.
Sommerfeld said this renovation will triple the retail space. With the added refrigeration, they will be able to offer more fresh produce for their food pantry.
“We are just waiting on securing a contractor and hope to begin construction by the end of the year,” she added.
In the future, they would like to expand their outreach services. “We have a lot of ideas,” Sommerfeld said. “Maybe something in Iron County, a mobile food pantry or possibly working with the schools to provide some kind of food or clothing assistance to families in need.”
This will come, she added, as they become more capable and established.
Sommerfeld stressed they want to work with other community outreach programs. “We want to help the meet the needs better and not take away from those who already offer services,” she said.
Denim Heart is currently taking donations by appointment only. Some of the items they accept include clean clothing of all sizes, shoes, accessories, home goods, infant and children’s items. For now, they don’t take furniture.
“We are always in need of men’s clothing,” Flynn said. “It seems we don’t ever have enough.”
Those wishing to donate items or food can call the store at 906-767-0132 or reach out to them on Facebook to set up a date.
DICSA’s Thrift & Pantry is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
Anyone wishing to support the project with a financial contribution can do so at any time. Donations can be mailed or dropped off at the DICSA main office on Carpenter Avenue in Iron Mountain, at Denim Heart or by going online at www.dicsami.org.