‘It has everything …’

Published 5:07 pm Friday, March 31, 2023

Rachel’s Hope makes the move to downtown, will reopen Tuesday


For a while now, those at Rachel’s Hope have known they were going to need to expand and now they’ve made that dream a reality by moving into its new location in downtown Austin.

Currently closed as they get everything situated, the new location will open starting Tuesday morning at the former Reliable Medical Supply located at 313 Second Avenue NE.

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“I have felt for the last three or four years that we had outgrown that space,” said Rachel’s Hope Director Linda LaVallie. “We love the building where we’re at. It’s beautiful and served us well for 20 years, but we’re just out of room. We have so many people requesting things we can’t provide in that space because we’re using every inch of that space.”

However, LaVallie said that space has always been an issue, something she wasn’t aware of before she took over the director’s chair.

“Every director in its history has said this place wasn’t big enough,” LaVallie said. “I thought it was a problem in just the last few years.”

That question has been answered with the move to the new location as Rachel’s Hope can now take advantage of the long length of its new location for more storage without having to constantly have volunteers go up and down stairs.

A broad showroom area also allows for plenty of boutique space for visitors to comfortably browse what Rachel’s Hope has to offer.

“It has everything we want,” LaVallie said. “Nothing was quite right until we walked into this place and immediately we’re all like, ‘this is it.’ This has everything we want. Everything really kind of fell into place when we didn’t think it would.”

Rachel’s Hope moved into its Oakland Avenue location in 2002 where it has spent 21 of the organization’s 25-year history.

And while it served Rachel’s Hope admirably, it simply constricted what the organization could offer. There was really no off-street parking and families were limited in how many could come to browse clothes and other items.

“We have a lot of clients that like to come together with their friends or cousins and they have these group appointments,” LaVallie said. “It’s been really crowded so they couldn’t bring their kids because there’s not enough space. But we do want them to bring their kids.”

The new location also has several larger rooms for mothers and families, with a waiting room that is much more comfortable for visitors.

With these things addressed, Rachel’s Hope can now look at its services — what it can improve and what it can add.

“We have plans to expand what we’re offering,” LaVallie said. “We’ve had a lot of clients request classes like budgeting, playing with their kids — just important kinds of childhood things. English as a second language class. We definitely have plans to offer a lot more things as we get settled here.”

The importance of the building isn’t just the need to expand and offer more services. It also means more in terms of reach.

Rachel’s Hope is the only such service within a large swath of southeastern Minnesota to offer these opportunities, with families driving from nearby communities.

“There are other programs in town that offer what we do,” LaVallie said. “There are other programs in town that offer some of what we do, but this is kind of a one-stop shop for kids of a certain age.”

As Tuesday’s opening comes near, LaVallie has been able to look back and see what it’s taken to get here. She said it’s taken a lot of conviction and bravery.

“This has been like walking in a dream,” she said. “There was a property we saw for sale and just on a whim, me and my assistant just went to look at it. We got in there and the dream started happening. We can see we can expand and grow.”

“We needed to move and that was an uncomfortable decision to make at the same time,” LaVallie continued. “The old building was paid off. It was very hard to say we’re going to leave this place we love and step out into the unknown.”