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The Depot Outlet: Serving Decorah for 44 Years and Counting!
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The Depot Outlet: Serving Decorah for 44 Years and Counting!

The Depot Outlet has a long standing history in the Decorah community.  You might be surprised to learn that the Depot Outlet was born over 44 years ago from one small idea!  

The Founders

Ward Stephenson, Mrs. Fred Grant, and Rev. Paul Christianson brought the idea of a non-profit thrift store in front of the Winneshiek County Churches. And that idea is what started the thrift store now known as the Depot Outlet. The first location of the store was in a house on East Water Street. As the business grew, the organization rented space at the passenger depot station. It was there that the name Depot Outlet, Inc. came to be. Again, as the thrift store became crowded with donated merchandise, the business needed, even more, space.

Growing and Relocating

The Depot expanded to Orie Iverson’s funeral home, across the street from the thrift store, once it became available for purchase. By 1984, the Depot Outlet was overcrowded once again as there were so many donated clothing and a high volume of sales for the current site. Largely due to the support of the many volunteers, the Depot Outlet had acquired considerable funds in the bank, once again, allowing them to grow and expand.

In 1984, the Depot Outlet purchased the Horace Brickner property on Railroad Avenue. The organization tore the existing building down and paid for a new building to be constructed in its place. The army reserve installed insulation and the NICC carpentry class performed the finishing work on the interior of the building.

Collaborating with Neighbors

At this new site, the Depot Outlet built an annex and assisted the newly formed Spectrum Network who provided work training services to adults with disabilities in Winneshiek County. The Depot Outlet and the Spectrum Network worked together on their separate missions. The Depot Outlet would recycle donated clothing and household items and continued to donate profits to Winneshiek County area non-profit organizations and churches. The Depot Outlet and the Spectrum Network worked together until mid-2006. Today, the Spectrum Network has two thrift stores of its own, located in Decorah and Cresco, IA respectively.

The New Chapter

Once again, by 2010, the Depot Outlet outgrew its building and began searching for a new space. In June of 2013, the organization purchased the current location in the Montgomery Street Plaza. The building was renovated by a local contractor, along with the help of Depot Outlet board members, volunteers from member churches, and the staff. The new space was opened for business in April 2014. The organization continues to serve the Decorah community in providing gently used clothing, furniture, books, and household goods at a low cost for those in the community that cannot afford to shop at commercial retail stores, and those looking for a great bargain. The Depot Outlet is owned by 33 Winneshiek County churches and is a great asset to the county, and Winneshiek County residents continue to be great supporters of the Depot Outlet! To date, the Depot Outlet has been able to fulfill its mission by giving back over $1,000,000.00 to community non-profit organizations*.

*To learn more about the Depot Outlet's mini-grant program, read up on their criteria, and apply here!

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