Talking Up a Storm About Old Stuff
By Catharine Schaidle
EAST PEORIA — On a snowy, frigid day in February, Bruce Mitchell of Bloomington drove around the Illinois Central College East Peoria campus looking for the lady in charge of “New Things Thursday.” For the past couple of months, Bruce had been browsing the ICC website and checking out the used items for sale in the college’s vast collection. After he finally located Molly Bragg in the warehouse, he picked up a used pretzel warmer which he purchased online from ICC’s Surplus goods store and loaded into his vehicle. What were his plans for the pretzel-maker? “I have absolutely no idea,” Bruce grinned. “But it looks pretty good. I look online every Thursday when they post new items. Some things are expensive, but some are very good for the price.”
“New Things Thursday” is the brainchild of Molly Bragg who is the author of the promotional snippets that advertise the items on sale through the ICC website. The dusty, outdated items that ICC needs to push out the door ASAP are given a whole new life, sometimes in lyrical form. Here are a couple of gems:
“Picture this…it’s Christmas morning, snow is falling softly, the fire’s crackling, and everyone’s gathered around the hearth. Think of your loved one’s face(s) as they reach inside their jumbo-sized stocking only to reveal a beautiful, jet black, heavy duty, piano-hinged 3-ring binder. They’ll cry tears of pure joy thanking you over and over again for buying them such a practical gift. You’ll smile before sipping your hot cocoa and nod slowly with great satisfaction. Only you know that it was bought at a fraction of retail price.”
Another week’s New Things Thursday post was a traditional three-line, seventeen-syllable, Japanese haiku.
Nothing new today
So we did the next best thing
We lowered prices
– See more:
Bragg, 24, is ICC alum who graduated from Illinois State University in 2013. Her job title — purchasing and payroll specialist — gives the lie to her creativity and her aspirations. No, Bragg is not a frustrated unpublished writer. She discovered her love for writing in grade school and now maintains her own blog.
“I just write little stories about my life,” Bragg said. “On my personal blog, I used to post a couple of times a week, but these days I’m lucky to get a couple up a month. Like everyone, I’m very lean on free time so it’s hard to make time for all my passions, like writing.”
She works Monday to Wednesday afternoons in the Surplus Store and part of Wednesday through Friday in payroll, Bragg said. “Surplus Sales needed someone who could organize the items. I split my time between the two positions, going back and forth between the two areas almost daily. Before Bragg came on the scene, her supervisor Jennifer Hughes and a student worker managed the Surplus Store. Bragg felt she could devote more time to it than they could. So she came up with New Things Thursday “so there would be a particular day set aside for people who look for bargains.”
She is given a free hand to organize and promote it, with supervisor approval. Since the college is always replacing old, faulty, or outdated items, the Surplus Store has a steady supply, which varies throughout the year. “Sometimes we get 15 to 20 new items a month. The warehouse is so packed with things the college doesn’t use anymore and we want to keep things out of landfills and give them a new life,” Bragg said.
Bragg also turns to Craigslist to move items. “I put some hospital beds on Craigslist and they moved faster, but we still have one or two left,” she said.
When some shipment comes in that could be used in another department, she sends out a notice to the administration and any faculty member could have it at no cost, before it even gets to the Surplus Store.
Although Bragg enjoys the freedom of the Surplus Store, she also appreciates the stability of her other role. “I like the consistency in payroll,” Bragg said. “I know
what to expect.”
As a student, Bragg received a scholarship from the ICC Foundation and is appreciative of the support from the college community. “I really got a lot of mileage out of The Studio because they helped me with the application process and they also helped me with my English 110 and 111 papers,” she said. “I recommended The Studio to my brother who is going to school here now.”
Bragg’s supervisor Jennifer Hughes said there was a lot of buzz when she began writing the promotional pieces for the surplus store. “She’s definitely created a lot of interest, not only in the Surplus Store, but with her writing,” Hughes said. “People stop in all the time asking, ‘who’s writing those articles.’”
The result of Bragg’s creativity also created the awareness of the shop and the fact that it’s open to anyone who wants to purchase items. “Things are definitely selling much faster,” Hughes said.
Her writing has also attracted the attention of some of the faculty at ICC. “As a marketing instructor, I am intrigued by well-written copy,” said Pam Dewey, business professor. “Yea, Molly, I have not purchased yet, but do look at the items each week because of the descriptions.”
English Professor Susan Hillabold described her Christmas stocking blurb as creative, lively, and hilarious. “I think her humor in these e-news Surplus pages is going to make going to them and reading them every week, addictive,” Hillabold said.
Although her preferred career path would have been nutrition and dietetics, business/accounting was originally her college major. “I still really like it, have (the) background and importantly, can start a profession immediately with it,” she said. I’m open-minded about my boomerang career path so I may take more accounting classes. In my case, it might be a wiser long-term career decision. I’m very happy where I’m at and feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with such great people at ICC.” She hasn’t totally abandoned dietetics: “I’ll continue to read, attend luncheons, write/blog, and educate myself about my true passion–nutrition.”
Meanwhile, Molly Bragg keeps things moving at the Surplus Store where she peddles ICC’s discards with wit and humour. Check it out for yourself.