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Treasure Hunter: Thrifter turns castoffs into trendy boutique goods


Raechel Kolling checks out a square wooden box at a west Toledo garage sale. Kollig re-creates the items she buys into trendy merchandise for her shop, The Green Boutique.

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Just 15 minutes into her garage sale adventures, Raechel Kolling decided the hunt was shaping up to be a bust.

She’d already visited three of the fives houses on her list, only to leave each one empty handed.

“That’s just how it is,” she said. “Some days you don’t find anything and some days you find everything.”

On to the next one.

Mrs. Kolling craves the thrill of a hunt. As a thrifter, she peruses racks and rows of used items at thrift stores and garage sales in search of everything and nothing in particular at the same time.

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She frequents local resale shops, including Savers and Goodwill where she trolls for materials. She always skims the shoe aisles, but she’s hardly ever looking for shoes.


The Green Boutique is located in the Marketplace West Shoppes plaza, at 3606 W. Sylvania Avenue in Toledo.

STORE HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

PHONE: is 419-206-9458.

“I’m looking for the hardware on them. The jewels, flowers, stones. That kind of stuff,” Mrs. Kolling said. “If [the shoes are] cheap enough, I’ll get them just for the jewels. I can use them to make headbands, necklaces, bracelets, or put them on a purse or bag. Whatever comes to mind.”

To Mrs. Kolling, there’s nothing more exciting than the ultimate score: an expensive-looking messenger bag for $3, a designer purse for a fraction of the original price, and even a beat-up wooden box.

One sale wasn’t on Mrs. Kolling’s list, but a white sign with bold black print and stapled to a utility pole caught her attention. She followed the arrow on the sign to a driveway lined with tables and boxes.

Mrs. Kolling sensed the sale was promising even before she’d stepped out of her vehicle.

“You know a girl named Aubrey?,” a woman hosting the garage sale asked Mrs. Kolling.

“No,” Mrs. Kolling replied as she looked carefully over a dingy white cube. It had a hinged lid and on the side, a pink heart with “Aubrey” painted sloppily underneath.

Through years of experience and trial-and-error, Mrs. Kolling has learned how to separate the good from the bad. Dovetail joints are a must for furniture. She avoids anything with cracks and dents and is hesitant about items with veneer finishes. The glossy finish is often used to make a cheaply made product look more expensive, she said.

She saw something in that box’s quality. It was solid wood with no dents or cracks. She had a vision for it.

“I was thinking it could be painted,” she told the garage sale hostess. “How much do you want for it?”

Once back in the car, she smiled a wide grin, excited about her score. She sat the box in the backseat next to a pair of wooden crutches.

“I’m going to use these to make bookshelves,” Mrs. Kolling said referring to the crutches. Sensing that her shopping partner was confused, she added, “It’s a matter of seeing something and envisioning how it could look.”

Since she was a little girl, Mrs. Kolling, 39, has been re-purposing discarded odds and ends. She grew up on a farm in Arkansas with her mother and brother before moving back to Toledo in 2000.

“I grew up really poor, so I always had to make do with simple things,” Mrs. Kolling said. “Everything I owned was from garage sales. I had to use my imagination and be creative.”

The enthusiasm for thrifted goods, including clothes and furniture, has seen tremendous growth in recent years. Goodwill Industries, one of the most recognizable names in secondhand shopping, reported an 84 percent increase in revenue from the sale of donated goods from 2007 to 2012. During that period revenues jumped from $1.8 billion to $3.5 billion nationwide.

Even celebrities approve of the trend. Child stars Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are have talked openly about shopping at secondhand stores. Hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis bragged about “looking for a come up” in their hit-song “Thrift Shop,” which won a 2013 Billboard Music Award.

Last year, Mrs. Kolling coupled her creative talent with her love for thrifting and turned them into a store, the Green Boutique. The eco-friendly shop in the Marketplace West Shoppes plaza on Sylvania Avenue in Toledo is filled with second-hand items that Mrs. Kolling has re-purposed and “up-cycled.”

“You go into a lot of thrift stores, and what you see is what you get. I wanted to change the way people see secondhand,” Mrs. Kolling said. “I wanted to create an environment that was chic and use it was a way to show people it’s not just junk. We’re such a throwaway society, and there’s so much to be had from reusing.”

One-of-a-kind jewelry pieces created from broken jewelry and scraps, like-new clothing, home decor, and furniture fill the front of the small shop.

In the back, a sewing machine, paint, stencils, glue, and staple guns are set on a desk. Piles of colorful beads and stones are nearby, and a tower of drawers filled with mismatched buttons and screws and other hardware are sit on the other side of the work space. At her home, she stores heavy equipment and machinery that she uses to work on furniture.

She grabs a set of round wooden bulbs and places them under the wooden box she picked up at the garage sale. The bulbs, now painted in a zebra print, were once part of the legs on an end table. While the table was turned into a luxurious pet bed, the bulbs were tossed to the side, but only temporarily.

“That’s a perfect fit,” she said, admiring her work. “Now all I have to do is sand it down a bit, paint it, and jazz it up.”

Contact RoNeisha Mullen at: or 419-724-6133.

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