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Community Closet to open in downtown Wagner on Dec. 1

WAGNER — A Wagner woman’s desire for a thrift store has turned into a business that will benefit children of the community.

Ruth Bouza moved to South Dakota from Switzerland in 1985, bringing with her a wish to shop at discount stores because she “doesn’t like to pay full price.”

But there wasn’t a shop of the sort in Wagner, and finally, after years of contemplating the idea and taking clothes she and her children have outgrown to other communities, Bouza is set to open the Community Closet.

The Community Closet will function much like a Goodwill, with people welcome and encouraged to make donations. The donations will then be washed, cleaned and sold for low prices.

All of the money made at the store, set to open on Dec. 1 in downtown Wagner, will be given to children’s organizations in the community.

“I think the people around me all understand my vision,” said Bouza, who also runs Custom Touch on Wagner’s Main Street. “There are plenty of organizations and people who need money, but if it’s not in some way helping the children, I don’t want it.”  

Wagner Director of Economic Development Kelsey Doom said she’s excited to see the impact the Community Closet will have on the community and she’s never seen a similar business model in town, which will hopefully help its success.

“I think Ruth is onto something, and she is as ambitious as they come — if anyone can make it work, it’s Ruth,” Doom said. “I'm honored to be part of the journey, and looking forward to seeing the thousands of people it will help in the future.”

Bouza has had the idea for the Community Closet for several years, but she was always too busy, but now “just feels right.”

Bouza and her husband, Justin, purchased the Community Closet building — formerly the Veterans of Foreign Wars — in October. Built in 1899, the building has taken plenty of work to restore, including a complete remodel of the main section and front.

And on Wednesday morning the walls remained mostly bare and items had yet to be moved into the shop, but with two weeks to spare before the grand opening, donations have begun to flow in.

The community’s support so far has been “astounding,” Bouza said, and she has heard many compliments. To Bouza, her endeavor has “seemed to put a new life in the community.”

The Community Closet will have one full-time employee to oversee day-to-day operations, but the rest of its employees will be volunteers, many from the local nursing home. Bouza said she’s excited to host the volunteers and give them an “escape” from their normal routines.

Bouza herself will be one of the volunteer employees, as she will not receive pay for her work.

“I’m doing this for the good of the community,” Bouza said. “I feel if I pull from that, I’m robbing the community.”

The Community Closet will be open on Thursdays from noon to 7 p.m.; Friday noon to 5 p.m.; and Saturday noon to 3 p.m.