Rifle Thrift Shop finds new home after property donation
Not every story has a happy ending, which is why volunteers with the Rifle Thrift Shop, as well as shoppers who frequent the store, were happy to announce a deal that will allow the shop to continue to operate at a new location.
The shop’s board reached an agreement with longtime resident Carol Gentry, who donated property at the corner of East Avenue and First Street. Most recently, the property served as a Realtor office, but it has been vacant a couple of months.
Under the deal, Rifle Thrift Shop — a registered public charity — will assume ownership of the property and be responsible for maintenance and paying property tax and utilities, which will likely cost more than the $300 per month it paid the Rifle Heritage Center to operate in its soon-to-be-former location, said Kathy Snyder, Rifle Thrift Shop secretary treasurer.
The Rifle Heritage Center board of directors agreed to terminate the lease agreement between the two organizations earlier this year after the New Ute Theatre Society asked to use the space as storage for the New Ute Events Center under the assumption that the store’s lease was expiring, which it was not at the time. The thrift store has operated at that location for more than 25 years.
After approving the lease termination, the board notified the thrift shop in May that it had until the end of July to find a new location. At the time, Snyder said she was uncertain if the shop would be able to find a new location. Failing to do so would have forced the store, which serves many lower-income residents and returns its profits to the community in the form of scholarships, to close its doors.
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That changed in early June, said Snyder, who cited an article in The Citizen Telegram for raising awareness of the thrift shop’s predicament. After contacting Gentry to inquire about renting the property, Gentry’s accountant called Snyder to tell her the property would be donated.
One other offer came in from somebody with property near Centennial Park, but Snyder said the deal with Gentry was the better option.
Gentry said she thought the store and its volunteers had been “stabbed in the back” and was angered by how the store was treated.
“It upset me because they’re an asset to the community,” Gentry said, adding she was happy to donate the property.
Repeating earlier remarks, Betty Waldron, Heritage Center secretary, said the decision to end the lease was not easy for the board.
“We hated to do it,” she said. “We were very split on our board on whether or not to do it.”
The center regularly heard complaints from surrounding businesses and the city about items, typically in poor condition, left outside the building after hours, which Snyder conceded has been an issue for some time.
Despite efforts to curb the practice, people still left items in the parking lot after hours, including larger items such as couches and beds, which the store could not accept because of limited space.
“There was not a thing we could do about,” Waldron said.
With much more space than at its location in the Rifle Heritage Center building, the store will be able to accept more items, including furniture, once it moves into its new location, Snyder said. The experience was eye-opening with regards to the community’s support for the store.
“I was amazed,” she said. “People came in and said, ‘We’ll help you move.’ It was just something … the community support. I was really thrilled, and it was really heartwarming.”
Snyder and the other volunteers are not the only ones who are thrilled. Rifle resident Betsy White has shopped at the store the past 10 years because the prices are a “such a bargain.”
“I don’t own a piece of clothing in my home that didn’t come from that thrift store,” she said.
Had the store closed, it would have been a huge loss for Rifle, White added. In addition to cheap prices, there is a sense of community in the store among shoppers and the volunteers who run it.
“I’m thrilled they’re going to be back,” she said.
The outcome is about as good as one could have hoped for, Snyder said. The new location is still in downtown — within walking distance for many customers — and with the parking garage located across the street, customers will have nearby parking options, and the store will not have to worry about trash being left after hours.
The store will close Monday, July 19, for the move. Anyone who wishes to help with the move or help prepare the new location for its opening can call Snyder at 625-0507. A grand opening is scheduled for Aug. 3.
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