CEDAR RAPIDS — Deb Langguth knows her customers.
“I grew up shopping at thrift stores,” Langguth recalled. “My parents had six kids, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. So we shopped at thrift stores and garage sales — any way to pinch a penny.”
Langguth, 61, worked at an order-fulfillment center in Cedar Rapids until a workplace injury left her with permanent work restrictions.
“That, coupled with my age, (meant) no one would hire me,” she said. “I could not find a job, so I started doing garage sales to supplement our income.
“I met a lot of really great, really interesting people, and I had a great time.”
After about a year of regular garage sales, Langguth opened Bargains Galore at the former Cellar Door Antiques location on First Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids.
“I learned so much, you can’t even imagine,” she said. “I learned it’s a lot more expensive than I thought.”
Langguth moved her store across town to southwest Cedar Rapids in October, after the lease at her first location expired.
Her customers have followed, mostly, aided by the store’s 1,900-follower Facebook page, although Langguth worries some older customers are still looking for her.
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“We have a lot of repeat customers, loyal followers. We’re actually surprised how many of our regular customers live on this side of town,” Langguth said.
The new location brought some changes in customer preference. Langguth found clothing doesn’t sell as well, but demand for “gently used” furniture remains strong.
“Over on First Avenue, we couldn’t keep dressers in the store,” she said. “We sold a lot of dining tables. Here, they’re just sitting. Sofas continue to sell pretty well.”
Langguth buys furniture from a handful of suppliers.
“Because I buy from them on a regular basis and in bulk, they give me better prices so I can offer better prices,” she said. “Our markup is not extremely high.”
Merchandise is thoroughly inspected and cleaned before going on display.
“If something has a problem, we tell them about it before they buy,” Langguth said. “I won’t sell junk. I don’t want that reputation.”
And don’t hesitate to haggle.
“I have a lot of stuff,” she said. “I don’t have room to put all of it out. If they think something’s a little high, all they have to do is talk to us. We’ll work with them.”
Langguth and her family staff the store, but she doesn’t really count them, or even herself, as employees.
“I don’t even get a paycheck,” she said. “My niece volunteers here, she’s been with me since day one. If it weren’t for my kids and my grandkids and my son’s friends, I wouldn’t be here. I have a huge support system.”
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Langguth supports local animal-welfare and rescue organizations, an interest that developed out of volunteer work at the Cedar Valley Humane Society — “the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.”
Bargains Galore sells items by the humane society’s supporters, with proceeds going to that organization.
Cash donations are collected there for local animal-welfare groups, and the store hosts monthly cat adoption clinics for Uno’s Promise Animal Rescue. This month’s adoption clinic will be Saturday, Jan. 25.
“They bring a bunch of cats and kittens, and people can come and check them out,” Langguth said. “That is our way of giving back to the community, helping the homeless animals find homes.”
Langguth gives in other ways, too.
“The other night, a lady came in,” Langguth said. “She had a young man who had lost his home, and the people he’d been living with had kept most of his stuff. I went to the rack and got a pair of sweatpants and a hoodie and gave it to them because the kid needed some clothes. I didn’t have a lot that fit him, but I gave him what I had. It feels good.”
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At a Glance
• Owner: Deb Langguth
• Business: Bargains Galore Thrift Store and More
• Address: 2020 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids
• Phone: (319) 449-4113
• Facebook: BargainsGaloreThriftStoreandmore