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Not worn out

By Staff | Sep 13, 2013

Vicky Harmel and Phyllis Johnson mark the first anniversary of Worn-A-Bit. Submitted photo

Vicky Harmel and Kathy Tuff Paulson were sifting through rummage sales in Rugby on a fall afternoon in 1983, finding hidden gems and needed household items.

After returning home and going over their stash, Harmel made a declaration: “You should be able do year around.”

Since the fall of 1983, residents and Rugby and surrounding areas have been able to do just that by shopping at Worn-A-Bit.

The consignment shop’s 30th anniversary this week on Sept 19 will celebrate the anniversary with an open house on Sept. 20 from noon until 3 p.m.

Founded by Harmel, Tuff Paulson and Phyllis Johnson, Worn-A-Bit has been run by Dianne Montonye for the past 23 years.

In the 1980s, Johnson and Harmel were always looking for interesting ways to promote their business. In this picture, Mark Carlson plays the piano while Johnson and Harmel look on.

The store opened in the building on Second Street that has most recently been Frank’s German restaurant but quickly outgrew that location and moved to the Tofsrud building down the street.

Harmel said they borrowed just $500 to get the store off the ground.

The store has had a number of items, from consignment clothes and books and at different points even had a one-hour photo shop and a balloon store.

After a four months, Tuff Paulson moved, leaving Harmel and Johnson running the store.

The store was headquarters for the Rugby Centennial in 1986 and took an active role in promoting downtown Rugby.

Dianne Montonye has operated Worn-A-Bit for the last 23 years and said business has picked up in recent years as second-hand clothing has become more hip. Chris Bieri/PCT

“My favorite memory was our Christmas in July,” Johnson said. “When Crazy Days were crazy. There was actually things going on on main and the stores did crazy things. We stayed up half the night decorating the store for Christmas.”

It was a family affair and the women enlisted the help of their mothers to work shifts at the store and their husbands helped renovate as they updated and changed locations.

“Our moms came in and helped and worked their butts off,” Harmel said.

Mark Carlson and Montonye, who was Dianne Carlson at the time, purchased the store in 1990.

“The last thing Mark wanted to see was another business on main street close,” Montonye said.

Consignment shops have become much more hip in recent years.

“This was way before consignment stores,” Harmel said. “We were way ahead of ourselves which to me makes it unique. Now they’re really vogue.”

Since Montonye took over the store, they’ve had 4,386 different consigners.

“Business has picked up a lot, partly because of a lot of good consigners,” Montonye said. “Partly due to the whole environmental/recycling thing that’s caught on with everybody. Second hand is OK.”

Through decades of changes in trends and economic ups and downs, Worn-A-Bit still isn’t worn out.

“There are a lot of consignment stores in neighboring towns that have come and gone in the past 30 years, so we’re pretty proud,” Montonye said.

“It’s like the best thing I ever did beside have my kids,” Harmel said. “It was my little spot in the world. Not only was I having fun doing it, but it provided a service to the community. Obviously it worked, because it’s been there for 30 years.”

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