Saving the Planet One Purchase At A Time
There is an old saying, “one person’s trash is another’s treasure.” This statement couldn’t be truer for Julie Kerns, owner of the south Minneapolis antique store Junket: Tossed & Found. Her mission is to reduce, reuse, and repurpose old things. However, it is more than just finding knick-knacks and oddities. Julie and her staff are taking steps to be environmentally conscious. Julie’s mantra is simple, “when beautiful things (and people) are abandoned, it doesn’t mean they’ve lost value; they just need to survive long enough to find new purpose and appreciation elsewhere.”
Her business operates on a “triple- bottom line” business model. This allows her to make a profit while weighing her social/environmental impact. Junket’s mission is to make it easier for people to connect with quality used stuff. Their environmental solution: to markedly reduce landfill contributions by eliminating barriers to – and creating enthusiasm for – reuse. For Julie, a hobby turned into a way to make a living.
In some cases, tragedy turns to triumph, and character is defined out of adversity. Following an unexpected divorce and a spell of depression, Julie experienced dramatic weight loss. “Needing office-appropriate attire that fit, I thrifted on the cheap while [my daughter] visited with her dad, and I supplemented the diminished household income by consigning my older, larger clothing,” explains Julie. In 2011, Julie found herself the victim of a massive layoff at her former job. As a person who is always thinking of bringing value to others, Julie may not have wanted to leave, but if it was going to keep other people employed she was “fine.”
With the layoff came opportunity. “I got creative to make ends meet and continued to nurture this little treasure-hunting thing I had going,” said Julie. She recalls having the “omigosh!” moment, after picking up a commission check, and seeing that one of her 50-cent tiny shirts had sold for $10. “The return on investment piqued my interest,” says Julie. As her collection grew so did her aspirations. In the Fall of 2012, Julie and a friend began experimenting with small vintage pop-ups. Julie hoped she would be able to drive enough traffic to her home in one weekend to merit the renting of a small space for future sales. Her plan worked.
Junket: Tossed & Found opened in December of 2012. Within the first year, it tripled in size. What started as a small-scale vintage shop has expanded with nearly 3,000 square feet dedicated to those with a love for vintage, visual, and creative things.
To recharge her creative energy, Julie practices restorative yoga or binge watches her favorite shows like Orange Is The New Black. She admits it can be hard to juggle her personal life with running a business. However, she is passionate about her work. She finds inspiration in the smallest acts. “Honestly, I also find sorting things to be incredibly soothing, so that’s one way I get work done while taking care of my soul. Processing treasures to sell at the shop seems to take care of both,” states Julie.
Sustainable Solutions for Junk
Aside from finding new homes for discarded junk, Julie and company strive to reduce their environmental impact. “We weigh and classify purchases made at Junket to help us understand how our individual day-to-day consumption habits impact global issues such as climate disruption and waste diversion,” explains Julie.
Part of their initiative is to help customers understand the specific environmental benefits of reuse while learning more about herself. Since 2015, Junket has been working with Minneapolis-based Ecotone Analytics, GBC to track the amount of carbon dioxide emissions avoided by consumers who purchased the shop’s products.
As far as Julie knows, Junket is the only retailer in the country actively doing such product-specific analysis. Julie sees her daughter’s future as her motivation for such an undertaking, “making sure she has a habitable planet to call home. Also, making sure she has an entrepreneurial skillset to succeed regardless of market/employment conditions in the future.”
What Treasures Lie Ahead
The next evolution for the Minneapolis vintage shop is to reduce its square footage by 25% to welcome All Square, a new non-profit grilled cheese restaurant into the building. The change is a strategic decision on Julie’s part, to improve the area’s walkability as well as food options. The reduction in size will also allow Junket to improve their assortment, and commit to their “environmental format” (less weighing at the register and more automated weights).
Julie and her Junket crew have recently enlisted Minneapolis-based B-Corp Software For Good to begin prototyping a technical tool that enables a social supply chain for reused goods. “Junket is committed to serving as a community resource and force for good,” says Julie. “We’re working to provide high-quality ease of access to the most sustainable goods possible: those that already exist.” The goal is to combine the ease of traditional retail with the environmental virtue of a thrift store.
Advice for a Greener lifestyle
Julie’s advice to people seeking to live more sustainable is to reuse everything you can. Take pride in knowing that your purchasing choices are the most ethical socially and environmentally. She also encourages other people to recognize that sustainability isn’t always convenient. Instead of spending money to fix problems that arise, use creativity to face the challenge.
In doing so, Julie emphasizes, “you’ll be avoiding responsibility for the generation of new, unnecessary manufacturing waste, but you’ll also support someone who’s doing the work of making these used goods available on a convenient platform — and the more we reinforce these environmentally ethical selling behaviors, the stronger the used market will become for all of us.”
Junket is open 7 days a week, 11 am-7 pm. Check out their links below!