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Voyage Chicago feature: Meet Wendy Serrino of North Shore Exchange

Thank you, Voyage Chicago, for featuring North Shore Exchange President Wendy Serrino in your recent feature article

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wendy Serrino.

The idea for North Shore Exchange (NSE) came about when the Woman’s Library Club decided to close it’s 80-year-old thrift shop due to many years of financial losses. The new concept for the old building was for a charitable resale shop that would sell luxury women’s fashion and high-end home furnishings via consignment and donation and would give all of its profits to Chicagoland charities. The shop would be run by a board of directors and a large group of volunteers.

North Shore Exchange qualified as a 501 (c)(3) enterprise and opened for business in March of 2013 after completely renovating the old thrift shop building for the Woman’s Library Club. The shop has been very well received and has grown substantially in the four years it has been open. It is run 90% by volunteers and 5 part-time paid staff. Sales have reached almost $900,000 a year and by September of 2017, NSE will have given $1,000,000 to charity. We have shoppers/consignors from all over Chicagoland and from faraway states like California, Arizona, Washington, Florida and Texas.

NSE has won the Make It Better Best Resale Shop for three years running – 2015, 2016, 2017. NSE has also won the prestigious Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce – 2017 James Tyree Award honoring a local emerging business for leadership and philanthropy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
There was tremendous support from the community from the beginning to make the concept work. Renovating a building on a shoestring budget with donated architectural and design expertise along with donated building materials in five months was challenging.

It was also a huge learning experience in that none of the team had run a retail/resale shop before. All of it was new – from the concept to the execution to the people involved.

Unexpected and extraordinary happy results followed and the community that was created lives on every day at our shop.

North Shore Exchange – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are known as a fabulous place to shop for great deals on high-end women’s fashion and home decor. We are different than other resellers because 100% of our profits go to charity. So whether you shop, consign or donate you get to participate in the mission of North Shore Exchange.

We have a strong community of loyal volunteers, employees, shoppers, donors and consignors so just coming in our shop makes you want to stay, chat and look around.

For our consignors – We sell fast. We pay fast. We price competitively. And every item sold helps Chicagoland children and families in need. What’s in your closet that you aren’t wearing? Turn it into cash!

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Our ultimate measurement of success is the amount of money we can give to Chicagoland Charities that serve the poor – but in order to do that we have to have a successful growing business that is efficiently and happily run by our volunteers and staff. So our measurements are: Total profits generated in a year, sales growth, product quality, volunteer satisfaction, and also positive feedback from our shoppers and consignors/donors.