Second Gear was a rummage sale style shop that was located in Room 114 in UWGB’s Library Learning Center. The shop, which opened in 1976, was created and managed by the University Women’s League and was one of their most memorable contributions to the campus itself. The shop sold various items including used clothing, books, household items, home furnishings, and other oddities thought to appeal to the student body. The merchandise sold at the shop was collected through donations, and the profits would be used to fund scholarships for students attending UWGB.
The Second Gear shop remained a major part of the League’s workload, but as the years went on, questions concerning the usefulness of the shop began to emerge. In January of 1998, the League’s president, Elaine Capelle, announced that a few students had been appointed to conduct an independent project survey in order to determine whether or not the shop was a vital component of the campus community. It was also mentioned in this newsletter that the American Marketing Association (AMA) had been contacted in the hopes that they would want to be involved in the management of the shop- potentially even take it over.
An Independent Study and analysis was done with the Second Gear Shop as the focus of the research. University of Wisconsin- Green Bay students from different classes and buildings were asked to fill out surveys. The surveys asked a series of questions pertaining to Second Gear in an effort to determine what the attitude was about the shop and what, if anything, could be done to improve the merchandise available or the shop itself. The responses from 80 males and 137 females were tallied and analyzed. The results of this study did not reflect very well on the shop. The survey responses collected ultimately resulted in a consensus that the majority of UWGB students are either unaware of the general existence of the shop, or they do not know that the profits generated in the shop are used for student scholarships. Also, the results imply that there may be a need for newer merchandise as many claim that they do not buy anything from Second Gear because they do not find the merchandise appealing.
The document below, titled “2nd Gear Sonata”, does not offer a date or an author, but it does playfully illustrate the conflicting ideas concerning the shop and its effectiveness.
On July 15th, 1998, the AMA officially took over the responsibilities of the Second Gear shop. In a letter addressed to the volunteers and customers of the Second Gear, Eric Shimon, the then vice president of the AMA chapter on campus, announced that “the store is moving in a new direction.” He goes on to explain that his organization was planning on updating and improving the quality of the merchandise and also the appearance of the shop itself. This includes selling CD’s and also renting video games to students. The overall tone of this letter implies that the shop was considered a bit of a burden. “When we were asked to take over the store we all sat down and had a discussion about it (just the officers alone). We asked ourselves if this would be worth our time??? Us officers cam up with the conclusion that it couldn’t get any worse and our members could display their own marketing techniques.” The attitude that is implied in this quote is indicative of the general attitude towards the shop. The Second Gear did not have a great reputation at this point, and under the operation of the Women’s League had essentially gone out of business so to speak. The phrase “it couldn’t get any worse” truly shows how the shop was viewed at this time. It may be fair to assume that the League gave up the shop because they basically had to, not because they wanted to. The Second Gear shop was a primary focus for the League in the later years of the organization; it would not be a stretch to conclude that the failure of the shop under the management of the League likely contributed to the disbandment of the League shortly after the AMA took over.
Even with the AMA’s confident take over of the Second Gear, the shop did eventually close on March 31, 1999. No real reason is given in this newsletter, but the note scribbled on the bottom of this document (although it is difficult to make out who signed the note) gives some insight into the feelings of those involved towards the end of this project. The handwritten note reads: “Dear Elaine, I’m sure this wasn’t an easy decision for League members, but times change and projects reach their limits. Sometimes (as we know from personal reflection) it is time to retire and move on to other things. Second Gear was a wonderful idea that did much good.” Former University League members continued to help with the shop even after the disbandment of the League, offering both advice and volunteer hours, so it is not surprising that Elaine Capelle, former League president, may have been involved in making the decision to close the shop, which is what the note implies. No other documents have been found thus far that provide any other information concerning the final decision to close the shop permanently. At this point, researchers can only assume that the same issues that plagued the shop earlier in its existence, continued to affect the shop’s success in its final year.