Full of curiosities, Libertyville resale shop helps nonprofits

In boxes or by the truckload, donations arrive every day at Upscale Rummage and Furniture Warehouse on Libertyville's east side.

Most items are traditional fare, like clothing, furniture and home decor. But there also are collectibles, heirlooms, treasures, and curiosities that add spice to the extensive inventory and make it different from a typical resale shop.

"Need a wet suit?" founder/proprietor Renee Baldwin asks while guiding a visitor through the vast space.

"We had two pieces of the Berlin Wall. We sold both of those," she later added.

Those aren't the most unusual available items in the extensive inventory. A document from 1787, for example, is among the more recent additions. More on that later.

Everything among the thousands of items on display is sold at a fair price, with proceeds going to dozens of local nonprofits, Baldwin said.

Upscale Rummage also donates pots, pans, clothing and other supplies to various organizations, and it provides families affected by fires or other circumstances what they need to get back on their feet.

"It's remarkable the good that this place does," says Mary Coduti, one of Baldwin's longtime friends and a volunteer.

Such is the atmosphere that a cancer patient visits the store every Thursday after receiving chemotherapy.

"She comes here and walks for an hour," Baldwin said. "She says it's her happy place."

What has become a second career in retirement for Baldwin, a former commercial music producer, began 20 years ago when she held a weekend fundraiser for Montessori School of Lake Forest.

That annual effort expanded to quarterly fundraisers held in donated spaces. Finding that storing items didn't work, Baldwin accelerated her commitment to full time and set up shop in a 10,000-square-foot warehouse two years ago. Upscale Rummage at 801 E. Park Ave. shares the building with Sell A Cow Furniture in a commercial/industrial area between Route 176 and the North Shore Bike Path but has a separate entrance.

In honor of Upscale Rummage's 20th anniversary, Baldwin started a program called Sharing Saturdays, where the day's proceeds are donated to 20 nonprofits the store had not worked with in the past.

"It's started with 20 but it's been so well received, we're adding" organizations, Baldwin said.

She declined to say how much is raised for charity in a given year but noted the Montessori school fundraiser would produce $25,000 in a weekend.

Along the way, Baldwin made many connections and is on the contact lists of many estate sale and real estate companies. Being able to make pickups quickly has provided a good source of merchandise.

"I learned when people want to get rid of their stuff, they wanted it gone then," Baldwin said.

Befitting the shop's name, available items are of high quality and have been cleaned, polished and ironed, if needed. Merchandise is neatly arranged and displayed, department store style, in more than two dozen categories.

"I wanted them (customers and those receiving donations) to have a dignified shopping experience, not looking through everyone's castoffs," Baldwin said.

One of the more memorable items is in the fine furniture section of the cavernous sales floor, which Baldwin says stretches 100 yards in either direction from the checkout.

"We have fabric. We have rugs. We have more furniture. We have a round velvet sofa that needs to be in Las Vegas," she quipped. The striking red sofa has a suggested price of $7,000.

Keepsakes, first-edition signed books, old maps, diaries, love letters and items of historical interest are among diverse offerings.

Another curiosity that showed up in a donation box is the 1787 document, which was written in a Declaration of Independence style and details a rental agreement in England for watchmaker John Arnold.

There is no asking price, Coduti said, but the hope is that a watch or timepiece enthusiast will make a good offer.

  Customers browse at Upscale Rummage and Furniture Warehouse in Libertyville. Mick Zawislak/
  Renee Baldwin is the founder and proprietor at Upscale Rummage Furniture and Warehouse in Libertyville. All proceeds from sales are donated to local nonprofit organizations. Mick Zawislak/
  Renee Baldwin, founder and proprietor of Upscale Rummage Furniture and Warehouse in Libertyville, maneuvers a new donation. All proceeds from sales are donated to local nonprofit organizations. Mick Zawislak/
  Renee Baldwin opened Upscale Rummage Furniture and Warehouse in Libertyville two years ago. All proceeds from sales are donated to local nonprofit organizations. Mick Zawislak/
This document from 1787 details a rental agreement for watchmaker John Arnold for property in England. There is no asking price, but officials at Upscale Rummage Furniture and Warehouse in Libertyville hope a watch or timepiece enthusiast will make an offer. Courtesy of Mary Coduti
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