Much ado about thrifty shopping

Come rain or shine, Monday could be the big day for many anxious shoppers who can’t wait for the opening of the new Community Thrift in Freeland.

This week Community Thrift — formerly known as Senior Thrift during the years it was located in Bayview — was almost a week from opening, but about 20 people dodged around each other as they busily put away clothes and stocked shelves.

Senior Thrift gets its new name, Community Thrift because — according to Mike McIntyre, executive director of Senior Services of Island County — the name is more appropriate. He said because the community donates and purchases the items and locals volunteer at the store, it makes the name Community Thrift a perfect fit.

Just the finishing touches are being put on the new, 14,000 square foot store between now and opening day. When the first customers walk in, they will find about 9,000 square feet of retail space, more than double the 4,000 square feet at the now-closed Bayview location. From clothing and books, to furniture and sporting goods, dozens of racks of items are already priced and stocked for the first day of sales.

A large stairway and an handicap-accessible elevator lead to an upstairs shopping area at what is now South Whidbey’s largest thrift store. A large book section has several couches where shoppers can sit and preview a good novel.

McIntyre said while the building might look complete, a special local touch for the outside has been in the works since May. South Whidbey artists Marva Russell and Randy Landon worked together to create decorations for the outside gables, made entirely from thrift store purchases.

Each gable will have separate themes and colors, like a sporting goods gable adorned with red, white and blue sport equipment. Every item will be securely mounted high on the gables.

Outside almost 50 parking spaces wait to be filled by cars with shoppers, three times the amount of parking at the Bayview store.

“The location is infinitely better,” McIntyre said. “This is designed to be a thrift store, versus a bunch of rooms next to each other.”

Linda Moore, executive vice president of the Goosefoot Community Fund and the thrift store complex developer, said this week the Community Thrift is the kind of development that excites her. Moore said money earned at the store will provide many services and resources for seniors.

“The need is just too great,” said Moore.

In thrift store terms, the up-front cost of the new store isn’t as much of a bargain as the merchandise inside. The total cost of the project is $1.9 million, which includes the land, the construction of the building and furnishings.

McIntyre said the project wouldn’t have been possible without Linda Moore, who sold Senior Services the land for the store for about $400,000. The land, which is just over an acre, is improved and was sold to them with water and septic already installed.

In its previous location, Senior Thrift earned about $20,000 a month in retail sales after taxes, according to McIntyre, or $240,000 a year. In the new building, he hopes Community Thrift will earn upwards of $35,000 a month.

McIntyre said about $100,000 a year from thrift store sales goes to Senior Services programs. Other expenses to be paid out of future sales include payments on the new building and wages for three full-time and three part-time employees.

With the money earned at the thrift store, Senior Services was able to put money toward serving over 102,000 meals a year through its Meals on Wheels program, and funding Medicaid Transportation, senior center and senior activities and adult day care programs.

McIntyre said Senior Services is also working on expanding some other services, such as financial counseling, to adults 18 and older.

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