A popular and profitable thrift store, forced to close when its aging Main Street building was condemned, reopens Thursday in Westminster Shopping Center.
Westminster Rescue Mission Store, a downtown mainstay, has signed a three-year lease for a 3,000-square-foot shop near the Co-Op Super Market on Route 140.
The location is smaller and costlier than its former two-story brick building, which the mission had owned for more than 30 years.
The $2,500 monthly rent for the new space adds overhead costs, but the Rev. Clifford Elkins, mission executive director, expects the store to continue generating revenues of about $300,000 annually, all from selling donated items.
"We will have more overhead, but we are so thankful that we have found a space," said Elkins, who started searching for a new site when the old one was condemned.
The structure, which was built in 1865 at 57 E. Main St., was razed this month. Elkins expects the business will return to downtown.
"We still plan to rebuild on Main Street," Elkins said. "We definitely want to get back to our old store. We may even run two stores."
Expanding will take a building campaign and time, he said. The Rescue Mission Farm outside Westminster and a rehabilitation program for substance abusers who live there rely on the store for about 75 percent of operating costs.
The mission store carries clothing, toys, housewares, appliances and furniture -- items that are donated and usable. It is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Customers will see little change in the merchandise or the operation and will not have to worry about parking fines for expired meters, Elkins said.
"We will have the same variety, the same hours and no trouble with parking," said Elkins.
Sales clerk Alba Stierhoff said the new space should draw more customers.
"It is nicer than we thought, but not as big as we would like," she said. "I think we will actually do better here. For one thing, there is ample free parking."
The shopping center location is smaller than the former building by more than 2,000 square feet, but is brighter and more open. A resourceful staff -- five employees and several volunteers -- is building and stocking shelves, and hanging items on the walls.
"We may get 1,000 feet of display just on the walls," said M. Belle Holt, store manager. "I am trying to use every space I can."
When Manor Men's Shop, also in Westminster Shopping Center, advertised a going-out-of-business sale, Holt bought fixtures, counters and other equipment.
"We bought shelves, displays and clothing racks for such a bargain they practically gave them to us," said Holt. "All we need now is a mannequin."
Donations have fallen since the store closed in January, but Holt expects them to pick up because the shop is reopening and accepting items at the back entrance.
"People just didn't realize we still wanted donations even though we were closed," said Elkins.
The shop is filled with merchandise, including a four-piece maple bedroom set that will be a grand-opening special.
Pub Date: 3/16/99