Why Foundry Home Goods Prefers Giving Back Over Discounts

This Minneapolis shop is rethinking holiday shopping, Black Friday, and giving
The Foundry’s Anna Hillegass

Photo by Zach Dolinaj

When Foundry Home Goods shop manager Lillian Egner joined the team in 2014, she had a memorable conversation with owner Anna Hillegass. She told Egner, “I’m going to get things that are going to last, stock the shelves with things that are beautiful and full of value, and sell them for what they’re worth.” What that also means, Egner says, is that the Minneapolis store doesn’t do sales because there isn’t a profit margin. And if they ever do have a sale (there have only been two storewide) it truly is a discount.

Instead of passing along extra savings on utilitarian and artisan home goods, the goal has been to give back to community causes. Earlier this year, the Foundry created the weekly Foundry Giving Fridays, which means 5% of sales get donated to a nominated cause. On the weekend following George Floyd’s killing, the Foundry donated 100% of its profits—almost $6,500—to the American Civil Liberties Union. Recipients have also included the Native Governance Center in St. Paul, Juxtaposition Arts, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“We’ve always wanted to be the kind of shop where the things that we sell are meant to solve a problem,” Egner says. “To tie it back to that giving concept, by us doing that rotating giving every Friday is that we try to highlight, ‘Hey, these are worthy causes whether or not you’re interested in spending money at our shop this week.’”

Photo by Kendra Henseler

Don’t expect a door-busting Black Friday event, either. Instead of Black Friday or Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday, they celebrate their own holiday, the Weekend of Giving. During that time, a portion of their profits are donated to different charities. For 2019, Hillegass and her team donated $1,000 to rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering and to Honor the Earth, which supports Native American environmental issues.

The Weekend of Giving has worked both online or in-person, but this holiday shopping season the intimate storefront will still be closed for safety. (Since March, it has only been curbside pickup and online shopping.) That means holding Ginny Sims’ locally made ceramic bowls in your hands, smelling the Kerzon fleur d’oranger candle, feeling the farmhouse sheepskins, or leaning back in a rattan chair will have to wait. Thanks, 2020. 

Plans are still being finalized for this year’s Weekend of Giving, but Egner says that one possibility is to have a larger outdoor tent with a mini pop-up market that people can browse in person when they pick up curbside orders.

So combine Giving Fridays and the Weekend of Giving and what do you get? The answer may still be up in the air, but we know it’s going to be good. And, if we’re really lucky, maybe the shop dog Ruby will be around at the Weekend of Giving’s curbside pick up spot.

Want More Feel-Good Holiday Shopping?

The Foundry isn’t the only shop that gets into the holiday giving spirit. Last year, men’s shop Ace General Store in Excelsior offered 20% off a single purchase for anyone who brought in a gently used winter item to donate in November. (For those who aren’t familiar with Ace, consider taking advantage of the sale: Like the Foundry, the store’s business model strays away from sales to keep the value on the products.)

“Many people stopped in just to drop off winter clothing, without using the discount, which was lovely and hopeful,” co-owner Alex Cordell says. All in all, they were able to donate 100 items at the end of the month. Cordell and her husband Dan plan on giving back this year again, especially, Cordell says, because the housing crisis will only get worse when the moratorium on evictions ends. 

While you can shop most of Ace’s goods online, if you stop by the store this Small Business Saturday, it’ll have its usual friendly bonfire, plus an outdoor market.

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