Founded in 1962, with the hopes of providing a source of affordable, yet well-made clothing to men, women and children, The Tree has been a community haven for thrift-store shoppers. Dedicated to being a giving tree to the entire Ann Arbor community for the past 43 years, the store still upholds this simple mission.
Unfortunately, unlike most fairytales, this one does not have a happy ending. After 43 years of service, rising rent costs and competition from other second-hand stores will force the store’s owners to close it down this December. While the news of retirement is bittersweet for the stores employees, Tree is using the opportunity to sell its merchandise at even lower prices. Starting Oct. 7, everything in the store has been reduced by 50 to 70 percent, and for those who are still skeptical about second-hand clothing, a few buried treasures have been dug up, including Coach purses, occasional fur coats, and just last week, a Louis Vuitton handbag.
In accordance with its mission as a store serving the community, The Tree plans to donate all leftover clothing to charity, and is currently working with Jewish Family Services for Hurricane Relief as a source for the leftover items.
This fairytale union of community service and business looks the part. Upon walking through the white picket fence and through the classic cottage door, The Tree exudes a worn-in feel.
Every corner of the room is littered with clothing, shoes, and accessories – each with its own tale to tell. Shoppers used to the fluorescent-lighting, matching-hanger detailing of many chain stores may have a harder time adjusting to The Tree, which recycles everything it can and promotes an atmosphere that has not changed in the 43 years of its life.
“We really are one big happy family. The same people have come in for 15 years,” said store manager Josephine Watne, who, at 82 years old, has seen generations of families count on the store for their clothing needs.
First time sellers pay a one-time fee of ten dollars and receive a one-year contract guaranteeing them 50 percent of the profits made from the items. For almost 50 years, this system has provided The Tree with an abundance of goods from hats and coats, to bracelets and bags. LouAnn Preston, the store’s assistant manager, attributes the past success of the store’s business to tradition by which it has stuck.
“Everything is done by hand, we don’t have computers, and everything has stayed the same. People like the assurance of familiarity,” she said.
Reaching out to as many people as it can before the last apple drops, The Tree wrote in a note to its shoppers, “We will miss all our good friends and customers. Thank you for your loyalty, your friendship, your smiles and hugs, and your business.”
419 S. Detroit St.
Hours 9:30am to 5:00pm Monday-Saturday