Friday, October 1, 2004

Thrifty is nifty

Charitable stores help out valley organizations

Express Staff Writer

Owner of the Building Material Thrift Store, Bruce Tidwell shows off one of their better finds. Photo by David N. Seelig

Oh sure, everyone acknowledges that while the shopping in the Wood River Valley has improved it?s also become increasingly costly to shop locally.

Hence, the rise and continued support of thrift shops. In the valley?s towns there are a few for-profit consignment shops and there are several beneficent ones that give money back to charitable organizations.

The grand old dame of charitable stores is of course, The Goldmine in Ketchum, which has supported the Commu-nity Library since its inception in 1955. Manager Jan Mason has spent 10 years in that position, and almost 17 years total working at the store. ?It?s a great job, especially, the feel good part and the exercise. But it?s not for everyone.?

The alley behind the Goldmine overflows with donations of all sorts.

?We get approximately 60 big bags of stuff a day. Everything gets gone through. Otherwise if we can?t keep, it goes to Deseret Industries. They come and pick up from all the thrift stores. They?re a very wonderful and very dependable organization.?

Since the proceeds from the store all go to the Community Library, support has always been constant. ?Everyone loves the library,? Mason said. ?The annual budget is over a million dollars. We don?t make that much but we put a good dent in it. We are well supported by this fabulous community.?

And like all the shops, surprise items come across their thresholds regularly.

Most recently Mason was amazed when they were given an ?exquisite dining room table with ten chairs, perfect shape. They just wanted us to make the money on it.?

In Hailey, the Barkin? Basement supports the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley. With a renovation com-plete, the space on Main Street is shaping up into a thrift store with bargain items as well as good pieces, designer duds and carefully picked over house wares and sundries.

Operations Director Marcia Dyer has a ?Pleas? list.

?Donate working items or tell us if it needs repair. If it?s vintage, tell us. If it?s a gizmo, tell us how it works. We get so many things and we say ?what the heck is this?? Don?t let your kids pack the box. Oh, no, no, no. You?ve no idea what a 15- year old girl will pack.? And finally, she said, ?Help us make the most of your generous donations by fol-lowing all the above, washing clothes and cleaning other items.?

Every piece has to be inspected, Dyer said. ?I make piles. I can?t stand there might have been something worth $5 that we could make for the shelter that might get missed.?

In trying to spruce up the content and look of the Barkin? Basement, Dyer acknowledged she?s had to regroup com-pletely.

?You?re either a hunter or a gatherer. It?s important to have shopping awareness.? For instance, they get tons of sports equipment. Old skis don?t sell, (?Vintage is vintage,? she said, ?Old is just old?), so for every hundred pairs they receive, she gives them to a guy who makes benches, which he then gives back to her to sell. Kid?s clothing is usually really good, she pointed out. ?Anybody who buys retails is crazy. Since kids grow out of things so fast, many pieces are barely used.?

Halloween costumes are always big at Barkin? Basement. ?We?ve got so many costumes we could have opened a theater.?

Emmanuel Episcopal Church Thrift Store in Hailey benefits its sister church. It is housed in an old building that is painted a jaunty red. Items often over flow from the small space. Proceeds have helped to pay for the renovation of the historic church.

In addition to operating a domestic violence shelter and related prevention programs, The Advocates for Survivors of Domestic Violence now has A Place for Kids child care center next door to the Advocates' Attic second hand store, in Hailey.

?We opened in December 2003 and thought originally it would be women?s and children?s clothing but you need to sell everything to make ends meet,? Advocates Director Trisha Swartling said. ?It?s pretty much an all around thrift store, though women?s clothing and furniture is the bread and butter. The nice things sell right away. It?s managing the volumes of bad stuff that?s the difficult aspect.?

As with all the stores, the donations are sometimes what Swartling called the ?bottom of the barrel? after garage sales.

?I used to dump things at the thrift stores, too, but now I know better. We?re a non-profit. We can?t afford to do dump runs.? Store manager Janet Stone said out of 10 bags, she might be able to keep for the store only 10 percent.

?When you get hit with all good stuff it?s just amazing,? Swartling continued. ?What we really want to highlight is the need for volunteer staff. We only have one staff member right now. It takes a certain kind of person. It?s fun, but it?s hard work, physically. People can help with merchandising, sorting, folding and window displays.

?The upside is the proceeds go to support our programs. Lots of non-profits do business ventures. This is just part of the wave of the future; to tap into the for-profit community. Who knows how long people will continue to give? We needed to diversify our funding. It happened naturally, people had been donating, the shelter?s basement was full. It?s a natural extension of what we were doing. We let our clients use the thrift store and get vouchers to go buy basic needs items.?

The Building Materials Thrift Store in Bellevue has supported the Wood River Land Trust since 1999. Owner Bruce Tidwell was a contractor. ?I?ve been on the board of the Wood River Land Trust for a number of years. It started as a vehicle to reduce waste and raise funds. My business was not satisfying me and I was burned out on building more and bigger. I knew there was a market and opportunity for this. From my remodeling experience I knew how much was over ordered, or was the result of changed minds?

The Land Trust receives 100 percent of the Thrift Store proceeds after overhead and operating expenses. ?It?s been very successful,? Tidwell acknowledged. ?Since we began we?ve forwarded almost $300,000 to the Land Trust. This year we?re budgeted to pass on $100,000.?

Among the items one can find at the Thrift Store are doors, cabinets, hardware of all shapes and sizes, as well as appliances, windows, carpet, tile and lumber.

?Our great success is being able to pick up items. We do between eight and 10 big pickups a day,? Tidwell said.

This past week alone they picked up an entire kitchen, a whole set of cabinets from an Elkhorn condo, a Jeep Wagonner and three French doors,

?We research the value of everything since we have such a variation of material, from etched glass to beveled mir-rors to very custom finishes and appliances and one of a kind hardware.?

Despite all this some people still aren?t aware of the place, Tidwell marveled. ?A customer came in and said he?d been at Ohio Gulch?s dump and there were 50 brand new windows all boxed up. We could have picked them up, there?s just a lot of waste happening out there.?

Way back when, the Roman writer Cicero said, quite rightly, ?Thrift is of great revenue."

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