I’m Dreaming of Virgin Resin Snowmen

By SarahImage Fleming

Former Et Cetera Shop

Assistant Manager


When I think of Christmas at Et Cetera Shop, “Virgin Resin Snowmen” is the first thing that comes to mind. Virgin resin – I don’t remember exactly how that started. I think my coworker Deb thought of it actually. It’s a reference to that manmade material that many knick-knacks are made of these days. During my eight years working at Et Cetera Shop, I saw a lot of that stuff. We’d sarcastically call them Virgin Resin just to make them seem more special.


The backroom donation receiving area can get kinda crazy, so it’s either joke about things like that or lose. your. mind.


And you see a lot of virgin resin at Christmas. If it’s not virgin resin snowmen, it’s virgin resin Santas, virgin resin ornaments of a dog with a soccer ball…you get the idea.

So, in the back room, sorting through donations of virgin resin snowmen that come in (even in July – those things don’t melt – part of the allure, I guess), it can get overwhelming. Who really needs all that? Why do they keep manufacturing more? Aren’t there already enough virgin resin snowmen in the world?


Still, now that I’m six hours away and can’t be at Et Cetera every day I miss my virgin resin friends – but only the Et Cetera kind. That’s the important part: the Et Cetera kind. Why? Well, first off, if you’re buying them at Et Cetera then you aren’t encouraging manufacturers to make more. Eventually they will end up in the landfill. I highly doubt they’ll decompose if they won’t even melt in a Kansas July.


Also, at Et Cetera they are cheap. A kid can buy one on a kid’s budget – “it’s the thought that counts!” You can nestle one on top of your fancy gift-wrapped package to your sister, and not break the bank. You can love it for a season…if it speaks to you like that Pier One commercial, great…and if it quits speaking to you, you can bring it back to Et Cetera for someone else to love for awhile.


That is what I like best about Et Cetera merchandise. Everything has a story and history and you are adding another chapter to its life when you bring it home. Virgin Snowman, Part Deux.


Now I’m in a whole different state with no Et Cetera Shop nearby. We have a pretty good little thrift store here, and I hope to volunteer after my baby’s in preschool and I have more time. I do miss that back room madness. We’re in a smaller community and it’s a much smaller store than Et Cetera. That means fewer virgin resin snowmen. I went in the Community Cupboard the other day and had a little panic. Where were they? I miss the little guys. What if I need a little something to nestle in my gift of peppernuts for Elsie’s piano teacher? What if I just need a little warm fuzzy and don’t want to spend a bunch of money on something at the fancy home decor store down the street. Virgin Resin Snowmen, you are special to me. I miss you and Et Cetera Shop!


You folks in the Newton Et Cetera community have got it made…the largest selection of name brands in town, plus virgin resin snowmen galore. You keep donating and buying, and I’ll keep dreaming.

From Macklemore to MCC: Local Thrift Shopping for a Poor College Student


From Macklemore to MCC: Local Thrift Shopping for a Poor College Student

If you removed all the clothes from my closet that I bought at the store they originally came from, I’m not sure you’d notice a big difference—or that anything was in fact missing. That’s because I am a thrift-shopping addict. This healthy(ish) obsession started about five years ago when I started working at the Newton Et Cetera Shop during the summer. Needless to say, working at a thrift store made it a lot easier to regularly find clothes that worked for me.


As I transitioned from high school to college, and more and more of my money went to pay for books and classes, my interest in thrift shopping grew. Now when I go to the mall, I have to talk myself into buying things instead of out of it. As singer/songwriter Macklemore (one of my current favorites) puts it in his recent chart-topping hit “Thrift Shop”:


I’m like, “Yo – that’s fifty dollars for a T-shirt.”

Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition

I call that getting tricked by a business

Thrift shopping is one of the most convenient, effective, and meaningful ways of money saving. First, thrift shopping in your home community helps support local businesses. It’s not only handy to shop in your own town for travel reasons, but it’s also a great way to connect with the people you share space with. Secondly, many thrift shops—including Et Cetera Shop—are affiliated with charitable organizations which help people in the community, and all over the world. Every donation and purchase at our store is helping someone somewhere through Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), a worldwide relief and peacemaking organization.

And third, you just can’t beat the prices at a thrift store. If you’re on any sort of budget, thrift shopping is the way to get good quality clothes at the most reasonable prices. Of course, thrift stores aren’t just for clothing, but also housewares, furniture, books, electronics, toys, fabric, and much more. You name it, and I’m sure that at one point we’ve had it at Et Cetera Shop.  

Thrift shopping is close to my heart, and as important to me spiritually as it is financially. Knowing that my purchases mean something not only to me, but to someone in need, is an amazing comfort in a world overrun with consumerism. This is not to say I’m condemning traditional shopping. I know there are times when you can’t find everything you need second hand. I’m simply saying that for me, and I hope for some of you out there, the realm of thrift shops is a comforting and uplifting space to hang out in.

Hey, it was ninety-nine cents! (Bag it)

Coppin’ it, washin’ it, ’bout to go and get some compliments

Passin’ up on those moccasins someone else’s been walkin’ in

Savin’ my money and I’m really happy that’s a bargain, kids!

ImageBecca Epp

Newton Et Cetera Shop sorter and Bethel College senior

“Thrift Shopping Strategies: 6 Ways to Stretch Your Bucks Further and Get What You Want” by Valerie Swenson

In our country’s current economic state, thrift stores have become a beacon in the night for those of us who are hungry to maintain our closets as well as our bank accounts. Some people have had a love for thrift stores longer than others; some people are only just making the switch from department stores to thrift, and let’s not sugar-coat it, the change can be overwhelming. It is like a whole other world. Frankly, it is a far less fussy world, and a lot more interesting. Every store is a new adventure where shoppers are transformed into excavators, unearthing fashion staples and auxiliary items alike, and saving them from where they would be otherwise doomed to an underground purgatory, better known as a landfill.

There are some things you should keep in mind when thrift shopping if you don’t want to squander your hard-earned cash in the wrong places. Buyer’s remorse isn’t just for home-owners, after all. Luckily we’ve come up with some key strategies to help you have control when you’re shopping and make the most of your money.

1.  Assess Your Closet– Knowing what you have BEFORE hitting the stores is important. Go through your closet and make a mental note of things you DON’T need. For example, “I have seven black dresses; I probably don’t need to pick one up today.” Focus on things you want to get your hands on, instead. It can be easy to fall into a shopping rut, where you seem to buy the same type of items over and over again. Break the cycle and expand the wardrobe, not duplicate it.
2. Browse Your Style Online- It’s like virtual window-shopping, without draining the precious fuel in your car. You have endless possibilities at your fingertips! Pinterest has a wide array of fashion boards, or you could always look at your favorite department store’s website. You could even browse around at stores that aren’t in your area, or your continent for that matter! Have some fun with it- see what people in Europe or Asia are rocking, and you might be inspired to look for something totally different to add to your wardrobe. You probably aren’t going to find EXACTLY what you saw online, but remember key characteristics with the items and look for something similar.

3. Compile a List- There is no greater tool in keeping yourself organized than a list. Put your list together after you’ve assessed your closet and browsed online for a bit. If your budget is especially tight, keep the list fewer than ten items. More than ten items can become overwhelming and you’ll be more likely to ditch the list and go for impulse buying. Be as vague or as particular as you want in your list. More seasoned thrift shoppers tend to be very specific with what they are out to get, but this isn’t necessary. It could be as simple as “brown boots” or as complex as “ankle-high brown suede slouchy boots with 2 buckles and a 1-inch heel”. Just keep in mind that the complexity of the list outlines the complexity of your task at hand.4. Stick to the List- Whatever you do—stick to the list. Sometimes this can be a painful thing to do, because it will mean you are leaving some stores empty-handed. This can be difficult for even the most skilled and dedicated thrift shoppers. Your budget will decide how much leeway you have in straying from the list, but the panel of professionals here strongly suggests “stick to the list.” If you have a wide budget and a short list, pencil the extra item in. No one will be the wiser, *wink wink*.

5. Make Regular Trips- If you make your trips to the thrift stores more frequent, you won’t have as much trouble walking away with nothing if you don’t find something you are looking for each time. Just tell yourself “it’s alright, I’ll be back tomorrow/next week, etc.” This can also help you get familiar with the store and cut down on time spent searching through racks, you will find yourself gravitating towards items that you know have recently been put out. This is your thrift shopping instincts getting stronger. Feel free to rejoice.

6. Bring a Friend- Some people prefer having a second opinion when shopping in malls and department stores; thrift shopping is no different. In fact, newbies in the thrift shopping world may find this to be quite helpful, as some stores can seem like an explosion of items that would take hours to go through. Having an extra pair of arms to flail through the racks can make the process move faster, and who knows? Divide and Conquer- Maybe your accomplice will find something mind-numbingly great that you overlooked or never even considered (Just don’t forget about number 4 if your budget is tight). That’s the beauty of shopping at thrift stores, you never know what you are going to find!

Keeping these points in mind and putting them into practice in your life will help you save money in the long run. Keep track of what you’ve spent and compare it to what you would have had to pay if you had bought those items brand new. The difference is astounding, and you may become a lifetime thrift shopper when you see the numbers in black and white. Happy hunting!

Et Cetera Essentials

trendy.  unique.  euro chic.  california casual.  mod.  posh eclectic.  rock and roll.  gamine.  arty slick.

the “new” section at et cetera where the “Jr. Department” used to be.  (because trendy is for YOU regardless of your age.) 

Its the essential stuff you need to look uniquely YOU!

and that is what shopping thrift is all about…

Et Cetera Essentials   …putting it all together








This video gets us super excited about thrift.

Et Cetera is a great place to experiment with accessories because you don’t have to invest a lot of money in your look.

Check out just a few ( because we can’t spend ALL afternoon posting pics ) of some pretty jewelry items that have been donated to Et Cetera in the last week or so.

We have WAY more than this…

and tons of cool scarves and purses…

and it excites us so…

maybe we’ll post more pics tomorrow.


A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.  Proverb

He was a burning and a shining light.   John 5:35

You might have noticed the candles and fireside scene in our display windows this past week.

The theme is subtle, maybe, but there.  Both feature light that draws us in — the candle in the window signaling safe sanctuary for travelers, a celebratory birth announcement, or maybe hope for a loved one’s return; the fireside signaling the contemplative moments, the times we’re drawn into ourselves or the stories of others.

We hear over and over that Et Cetera is more than just a thrift store.  We offer light in many ways to many people.  We built these window displays to remind ourselves of our greater task–to welcome and be light to all, to honor the seasons of reaching out and reaching in.

And we built these displays to express our love for our community.


619 Main

Remember when 619 Main was FW Woolworth’s? Neighbors and friends of the Newton community would walk in and buy a new pan, maybe some thread, a rain bonnet, or a toy.What treasures one could find! 

Today 619 Main is the Et Cetera Shop. We gladly accept your unneeded items to share with our Newton neighbors and friends.You can find almost anything here from a ceiling fan to a Russian doll.Treasures still abound!

619 Main. Making memories, offering treasures and still keeping Main Street alive.Come see for yourself!

How can you see a community?

Check out the local thrift store.

My family enjoyed a great “beat the Kansas heat” vacation in Montana a few weeks ago.

While our husbands and kids were off backpacking on a feel nature / find yourself type of experience, my sister-in-law and I went second hand shopping.  (Note:  we aren’t wimps and can’t handle the hard core backpacking, we were just providing baby care.)

This is the crew out in the wild.


The crew back in civilization (my sister-in-law and I) checked out the thrift and antique stores in a Montana town…a little smaller than Newton…but nestled remotely in the Bitterroot Mountain Range.

I wanted to score some great kid mountain gear at second hand prices.  Sue likes the adventure and bargins that thrifting offers – so we set out (with baby) to seek out some deals.

What we bought:

  • Dishes that match the set back at the cabin
  • Nylon pants for both of my kids
  • a DVD for the VERY LONG car ride home

and we also got:   a real picture of the town

It stuck me that you get a real take on a community when you visit the local thrift stores.  Obviously, you see the local “stuff”…things that have been in the homes of people that live there.  But you also see the passionate volunteers and workers who value the mission of the store.  You hear the conversations between them and the “regulars” who come in often because they know the value of thrift.  You can see the relationships of these people as they talk about local events and issues, ask about their families and, “Do you think this shirt would fit Jackie?”

And so I was thinking about all this on the drive home as I was reading an essay by Barbara Kingsolver in Small Wonders.  She was writing about how national newscasts on television can leave us feeling (at times) helpless, overwhelmed, and ignorant of the real issue because of the multitude of agendas there may be.  This is something I need to think about more, but the part that really stuck me was this quote:

“I believe the those (needs) in my own neighborhood are the ones I need to attend to first, by means of casseroles and whatever else I can offer.  I also believe it’s possible to be so overtaken and stupefied by the tragedies of the world that we don’t have any time or energy left for those closer to home, the hurts we should take as our own.”

I came back from vacation with renewed energy in fostering our own little thrift store and helping it foster happy healthy families in our community.  I hope you hear those friendly and fun conversations when you come in the store.  I also hope you hear and see things that leave you feeling like people care for each other.

Earlier this summer I took this picture because it was so SWEET! …and it’s a great picture to show the friendly community atmosphere you find at Et Cetera.