A new thrift and consignment store called Northern Lights Community Action opened Tuesday, June 1, in Cloquet to fill a need left after the closure of the town's Goodwill in 2018 and the Salvation Army's thrift store in 2020.

"We knew that there was no place for people to come in and get things at a low cost," said building owner Heather Wright. "We opened this truly as a nonprofit to just help the community."

Heather Wright and Vivian Sarrala smile for a photo behind the cash register at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Heather Wright and Vivian Sarrala smile for a photo behind the cash register at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

The store's grand opening event involved face paintings, a food truck, balloons and a store full of people. Wright has owned the former building of Wood City Lights and Hardware on Cloquet Avenue since April 30. In the span of a month, the space has been renovated and filled with donations of clothes for all ages, some furniture, kitchen supplies, toys and more, all collected from the community in a matter of weeks.

Leslie Salmi paints Shelby Hennen's face as part of the grand opening celebration at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Cloquet. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Leslie Salmi paints Shelby Hennen's face as part of the grand opening celebration at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Cloquet. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

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Everything in the store is labeled with a colored dot that corresponds to the price in a simple pricing guide, ranging from 25 cents to $20. Adult T-shirts, for example, all cost $2.

People in need of assistance can use the store's voucher program, Wright said. The voucher program utilizes donations from different community agencies.

Wright also owns NorthStar Community Services in Cloquet, which provides services for people with disabilities, and previously worked for 10 years in the Carlton County Public Health and Human Services department.

The thrift store currently employs seven staff, most of whom are people with disabilities seeking employment services through NorthStar or other local agencies.

Talia (left) and Ascher Olson shop for a few kitchen items at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)
Talia (left) and Ascher Olson shop for a few kitchen items at Northern Lights Community Action Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jamey Malcomb / jmalcomb@pinejournal.com)

Northern Lights Community Action is intended to be more than just a store. Wright said she hopes to host events such as backpack, bike and winter clothing drives.

"There's nowhere in town for people to just go and get a jacket or get boots or anything like that," she said. "It's all about supporting and helping our community right here."

Jackie Meyer, the executive director of the nonprofit, was in charge of Cloquet's Salvation Army for 17 years.

"So I'm making a full circle back up what I used to do," said Meyer, who has known Wright her whole life. "We're all just a big team. … People are so happy to have a thrift store back in our community. We're helping so many people."

The store is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. A donation barn behind the store is always available for drop-offs. The nonprofit's garage was still full of donations that didn't fit in the store as of opening day.

"The heart and intention is to help people who need things," Wright said of the store.