RRR: Flying Pig Thrift Store opening in Midway

Posted on 27 July 2019 by Tesha Christensen

Two benefits: 1) Shoppers use and re-use what is already here, and 2) Proceeds benefit local non-profits

Flying Pig Thrift Store owner Melody Luepke, said, “The memory of my sister Heather has guided the vision for this place, where donated treasures find new homes, and worthy non-profits benefit. We’re choosing to operate as a cooperative, with profits shared equally among participating non-profit partners that focus on social justice and reducing gun violence. Donations are welcome during business hours.”(Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Melody Luepke had a long, satisfying career as a special education teacher in Cleveland, Ohio. Now at an age when most people are thinking about retirement, she has jumped into a second career instead: as sole proprietor and CEO of the Flying Pig Thrift Store at 722 Snelling Ave. N.
The organizational skills Luepke honed as a teacher and lifetime member of the National PTA have come in handy.
Along with family, friends, and volunteers, she is transforming the former Hamline University Bookstore into an attractive destination for people interested in reusing, recycling, and shopping local. With donations, in Luepke’s words, “pouring in,” a well-stocked, well-tended thrift store is starting to emerge.
The Flying Pig is a way for Luepke to honor the memory of her sister, Heather Valdez, a children’s librarian and thrifter extraordinaire. Valdez died of pancreatic cancer last year.
Luepke said, “Heather was a free-spirited woman with a generous heart. She loved to shop at thrift stores, and always knew how to find the perfect gift for someone. Her greatest gift may have been that she was able to accept people for who they were. Heather lived with cancer for two years, and enjoyed thrifting before her chemo treatments right up until the end.”
A grand opening celebration for the Flying Pig is planned for Saturday, July 20 from 3-7 p.m, with a short program at 5 p.m. Live music will include Melvin Carter Sr. and Friends, the band Zoe Says Go, and more.
Starting July 25, the store will be open from 11 a,m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Monday, staffed by volunteers. When asked to describe her ideal volunteer, Luepke said, “Someone who is willing to come on a regular basis, is reliable, fun, and dedicated to our mission of social justice. For more information on volunteering, email cerdocielo@gmail.com.
Luepke will use her own yardstick for measuring the success of her new business. She said, “After we meet the minimum needed to pay our lease and related expenses, we will donate all proceeds to four local charities. These organizations are Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration, St. Paul Almanac, and Black Truce Peace Organization. We’ll have information on-hand about these organizations, so people can learn while they shop. We’re especially interested in supporting non-profits that are underfunded, working on social justice issues, and serving the local community.”
The site at the northeast corner of Snelling and Minnehaha avenues was chosen because of its easy access to public transportation, and high level of incidental foot traffic. Luepke said, “It had also been on the market for more than a year, and that made the price ‘friendlier.’”
Luepke has contracted with Job Corps students to create both interior and exterior signage for the Flying Pig. At Job Corps, low-income youth aged 16-24 work toward their GED while learning a trade, such as making commercial signs for businesses.
The Flying Pig will feature the work of two local artists for the grand opening: Paul Johnson and Mark Nelson (and the artists will be on hand, too.) Johnson and Nelson both use found materials in the creation of their artwork, underscoring the basic message of thrifting – that it makes sense to use and re-use what is already here.
Did Luepke ever imagine she would be opening a thrift store at this point in her life? “I suppose anything’s possible,” she said, “when pigs can fly.”


Shop to benefit…
1) Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
2) Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration
3) St. Paul Almanac
4) Black Truce Peace Organization