More than a thrift store

Bowman's Cedar Chest recently moved to a new location at 17 South Main when its merchandise outgrew the old building. "We're two doors north of where we were before," said Cedar Chest Manager Vivian Hernandez. The Cedar Chest opened during 1976 i...

Volunteers Rosemary Kadrmas, left, and Joyce Miller arrange the clothing on the racks March 11 inside the Cedar Chest.

Bowman's Cedar Chest recently moved to a new location at 17 South Main when its merchandise outgrew the old building.

"We're two doors north of where we were before," said Cedar Chest Manager Vivian Hernandez.

The Cedar Chest opened during 1976 in a home owned by Dave and Carol Nygaard. It then moved into a home owned by Mabel Hanson and later to Main Street.

With each move, its mission is the same -- to provide an outlet for donated clothing to be sold back to the community, she said.

It is owned by the Little Missouri Arc Inc. (formerly known as the Association for Retarded Citizens), and proceeds support the organization's community projects.


Hernandez said the Cedar Chest's building was given in trade, along with a cash agreement, for the new building -- the former variety store.

While the Cedar Chest provides income for projects of the Arc, Hernandez said the second-hand store also fills the need of people shopping for bargains.

"Since I took over in November 2003 our income has incredibly increased, but we have not increased our prices," she said. "My feeling is that everything we have is donated to us. I'd much rather charge $1 for a pair of jeans than let them hang on the rack for $5."

She credits a big part of the Cedar Chest's success to quality control.

"Three or four times a week, I go through every rack and take off items that may be stained or worn or have been there too long," she said. "We decorate everything for every season and a lot of people don't realize they are in a second-hand store when they walk in."

The Cedar Chest has a large section of teen and girls' name-brand clothing.

"We have a women's section, a plus section, infant to toddlers and men's," she said.

The store has displays of shoes, knick-knacks, household and furniture.


"The oil field people who are moving in need furniture. They usually move here from the southern part of the country, so they are looking at just about everything," she said.

Hernandez has developed a skill for displaying merchandize.

"I try to keep my eyes open when I go to the mall. I like to see what's going on in the retail world. That's what we do here. We want to look like a real store, not a second-hand store that smells like grandma's closet."

The building has space for a play room for the children while their parents are shopping.

"We have a huge storage area in the back where we keep our seasonal stuff. Now, we're bringing out Easter and spring clothing," she said.

The Cedar Chest is staffed by 35-40 volunteers.

"I'm the only paid employee. We have two shifts 10 to 1 p.m. and 1 to 5 p.m. in the afternoon. We try to have two or three volunteers at a time," she said.

Keeping volunteers is an easy part of her job.


"People have such a good time. They love to come here to work," said Hernandez.

There's a diversity of volunteer job opportunities at the Cedar Chest. For example, Dave Nygaard, serves as vice president of the Little Missouri Arc Inc.

"He's my go-to guy when I need the roof fixed," said Hernandez.

Nygaard doesn't necessarily do the repairs, but he makes arrangements for the work to be done. He described the new location as wonderful.

"The new store really was a great improvement," he said.

In appreciation for the volunteers' service, the Bowman Chamber of Commerce gives them Chamber bucks, and they are treated to a formal dinner at Christmas time.

"One other thing, we participate in the Southwest Community Service and Restitution Program. Kids can do their service hours here, or we have kids at church who need community service hours for confirmation," she said.

Hernandez said the Cedar Chest takes donations at any time.


"Bags are sitting out the front or back door. If there's something we can't use, we give it to ABLE," she said.

ABLE Inc. is a separate program for people with disabilities. They either cut the clothing into rags or recycle the fabric into rugs.

"They bring the rugs back to us and we sell them," she said.

Hernandez said even the boxes of rags are in high demand by the oil field workers and mechanics in the area.

Proceeds from the Cedar Chest are being used toward the purchase of the building. In recent months, the donations were used to install a bowling ramp to help people with disabilities move the balls down the lane.

"We spent $20,000 for the School of Promise (childcare center) for playground equipment," she said.

Cedar Chest also has given scholarships for area residents to attend Richardton's Camp ReCreation -- a program that offers camping opportunities for people with disabilities.

The generosity of the Cedar Chest goes beyond the ARC.


"We have donated T-shirts and sweats to soldiers in hospitals. We donate hospital uniforms to hospitals overseas," she said. "We've donated clothes to the women's prison in New England. A group of church women in Scranton make layettes for single moms, and we donate bedding for the women's shelter (in Dickinson.)"

The clothing left over after a season of sales is stored at the Assembly of God church. In November, a semi-truck delivers the clothing to the missions.

Hernandez said she loves working at the Cedar Chest.

"We really like helping people here. We provide a service for those who want to get rid of the stuff and a service for people who need things," she said.

Ila Hawk serves as treasurer of the Little Missouri ARC and has been involved for the past 13 years.

"We started out with one room, then we expanded into two rooms in the same building," she said.

As the store became overcrowded, the variety store owner suggested a trade.

"It's been going very well. People are so supportive and people are shopping. You can't beat that. Vivian is doing a heck of a job as manager," said Hawk.


The Cedar Chest is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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