116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A quiet weekday morning finds a few shoppers browsing the racks of like-new clothing and furniture, appliances, books and other furnishings in a steel building, just southwest of Iowa City.
“The quality of furniture that we accept, we try to keep it higher,” said Cheryl Nichols, store manager at Upscale Resale.
“We attract a combination of people. A lot of college students come out, a lot of families.”
Bargain hunters and families going through transition have helped Upscale Resale support local community-service organizations since 2016, when it launched as an outlet of the British not-for-profit Drop Inn, at Iowa City Marketplace.
It was a retirement project of sorts for Marv Feigenspan, who was stepping down as senior pastor at HighPoint City Church.
“Talking with the senior leadership team, we said, ‘How do we help our community?’” Feigenspan said. “It takes money, so we established the nonprofit with the purpose of raising funds, then targeting other nonprofits in the community and giving them cash.”
In late 2019, the year after the shop moved to its current 6,000-square-foot location on Highway 1, Feigenspan and others reorganized Upscale Resale as its own nonprofit 501(c)3.
Upscale now supports more than a half-dozen local organizations, including Johnson County Empowerment, CommUnity Crisis Services and Food Bank, and Iowa Matrix.
“We want to see their compassion for the community, how they’re actually helping people directly,” Feigenspan said. “We build a relationship with those that are decision makers and leaders, and ask them how we can be of support to help them reach their goals.”
Upscale Resale’s board prioritizes local programs that directly serve at-risk families and those recovering from abuse or addiction. Revenues also support relief groups working in Haiti and Myanmar.
“Mainly we want to see them help people in need, and they’re directly involved with those individuals, helping them work through whatever their challenge may be,” Feigenspan said.
“We just want to see that they’re actually doing that.”
Some groups receive a monthly stipend from Upscale Resale, while others may get a one-time grant toward a project. A recent award, for example, went to Iowa City Compassion for equipment for its new food pantry.
Securing a steady inventory meant building relationships with advisers who specialize in helping older couples and their families manage the downsizing of their households and to liquidate estates.
“I know those business leaders well, so I communicate with them,” Feigenspan said. “We get inventory directly through donation, consignment or purchase.”
A staff of about 15 volunteers keeps the store open and running.
“None of us really had this type of experience,” Feigenspan said. “I had business experience, so I understand start-up principles. We were pleasantly surprised at the community support. It’s been very, very rewarding.”
“Everyone just started showing up,” Nichols said.
Director: Marv Feigenspan
Address: 3305 Highway 1 SW, Iowa City
Phone: (319) 337-8332
“It’s pretty work-intensive,” Feigenspan said. “There’s a lot of work involved, especially on furniture pickup and delivery, but it’s all worked out.”
COVID-19 pandemic precautions brought a pause in operations in 2020, but staff and customers returned as restrictions were eased.
“We shut down for the necessary time,” Nichols said. “Once we were able to reopen, slowly but surely we were able to get back into it. I think people feel safer coming here. Financially we didn’t have that pressure on it because it’s a volunteer base.”
With its supply chain established, Upscale seeks to support more programs, according to Feigenspan.
“We keep looking for opportunities to help our community more,” he said. “People donate to us or give us the opportunity to work with them when they’re downsizing, we’re able to take that product that we receive, cover our expenses and put money back into our community.”
Residents downsizing their parents’ households or dealing with the death of a family member also appreciate Upscale Resale’s services.
“We come in, bring a crew, and many times there’s no expense to the family at all,” Feigenspan said. “It’s a big job, downsizing. The community appreciates the fact that there’s a local entity that’s targeting the community.”
Iowa City is a good fit for Upscale Resale’s mission, its board and staff have found.
“The community’s been really aware,” said Nichols.
“This is a great community to partner with,” Feigenspan said. “You get good stuff at a good price, and you help people, too.”
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