In an area known for its mining heritage and current collection of high-priced homes, there's a little corner where Joe and Jane Everyman can still hit the mother lode.
The Gold Mine thrift store in downtown Ketchum is a place to treasure hunt, a gathering point for locals and the institution that contributes just over 50 percent of The Community Library's $1.6 million operating budget each year.
The Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors' Bureau chose the Gold Mine as its Business of the Year for "the continuous work that they have done for the past 50 years."
The popular thrift store opened 51 years ago, the product of 17 local women who knew the value of community libraries but were short on funding.
No taxes or public money is used to support the library, located just one block from the Gold Mine.
"This town is so giving," said store manager and former library board member Jan Mason.
Embarking on its 51st year, the second-hand store continues to attract oodles of merchandise from Ketchum—and beyond.
"A couple of ladies ship from Arizona," said Linda McMahon, assistant manager.
Across the way and down the stairs is a repository for next season's items.
Last Wednesday, several large rooms were filled with neatly arranged boxes, ready to make their Gold Mine debut early next week at the Spring Opening.
"It's amazing how much there still is," McMahon said, perusing the boxed items. "And it turns over completely twice a year."
Besides being a funding source for the library, the Gold Mine serves another function: social spot.
A large number of people say they frequently run into old friends at the Gold Mine, Mason said.
"They say, 'We knew we'd see some familiar faces,'" she said. "They don't want the Gold Mine to change. (The valley is) in the midst of so much change, we try to stay the same."
The welcoming atmosphere is one of the constants, said board Chairwoman Ann Taylor.
"It's a happy place," she said. "There's such a spirit of cooperation."
Besides the donors and shoppers, the store's mission is bolstered by volunteers. Some work at the store, while others are called in to help price specialty items.
"We're always asking experts in the community to help us," Mason said. "We don't profess to know it all."
As a recipient of the Gold Mine's monetary yield, the library in Ketchum can boast a staff of 17, a book collection of 126,000, nearly 5,500 videos and DVDs, and 5,300 books on tape.
"The library has huge usage of computers," Taylor said. "We provide a great service to residents and seasonal employees who check e-mail and go on the Internet."
A substantial Ernest Hemingway collection and a Regional History Department are also part of the parcel.
While donations, earnings from an endowment fund and fund-raising events contribute to keeping open the library's doors, the Gold Mine is at the crux of it all.
"People love to see the end product of their donation," Mason said. "This library is a complete circle of (giving)."