Heritage Center cuts ties with Rifle Thrift Shop
After 25 years in its current location, the Rifle Thrift Shop is looking for a new home following a “tough” decision by the Rifle Heritage Center board of directors to end the lease agreement between the two organizations.
The Thrift Shop has until the end of July to vacate its space in the building at the corner of Fourth Street and East Avenue. The Heritage Center plans on using the space as storage for tables, chairs and other items for the New Ute Events Center. The decision to end the agreement was a difficult one for the Rifle Heritage Center board, but the hope is that it will work out best for all parties involved, said Cecil Waldron, board president.
As a registered public charity, the shop sells clothes, small appliances and other items at little to no cost — often to lower-income residents. Aside from a $300 monthly lease fee paid to the Heritage Center for utilities, almost all of the money funds high school scholarships, said Kathy Snyder, Rifle Thrift Shop secretary treasurer. This year the store generated $6,000 for scholarships. In previous years that amount has been as much as $9,000, according to Snyder.
“We had to weigh all aspects of it,” Waldron said. “They do a good business … and they really are a benefit to the school kids.”
Still, several factors led the board to conclude that cutting ties would be the best decision for all, he added. The New Ute Theater Society — an independent nonprofit group — sent a letter to the Heritage Center requesting to use the space, Betty Waldron, Heritage Center secretary, said in an email after reviewing the minutes from the March meeting. NUTS President Helen Rogers confirmed that NUTS initiated the conversation, but it was under the assumption that the Rifle Thrift Shop’s lease was ending, she said.
While that was not the case at the time NUTS asked about the space, the board felt obligated to at least put the matter to a vote, according to the review of the meeting minutes. Ultimately, the directors approved a motion to have the Heritage Center’s attorney draft a letter advising the Thrift Shop that its lease was being terminated, effective to be determined. The letter, with a termination date of July 31, was approved at the board’s April meeting.
The city owns the building and allows the Heritage Center to use it as long as it pays the cost of utilities and maintenance, said Assistant City Manager Kimberly Bullen. The Heritage Center is allowed to sublease space to help offset that cost, but the city does not get involved with the sublease.
“That’s up to (the Heritage Center),” she said.
However, the fact that the city owns both buildings did influence the board’s decision to put the matter to a vote, according to the review of the March meeting minutes. There was a strong desire among board members to help with the storage, Cecil Waldron said. Additionally there were, and still are, concerns with clutter outside the Rifle Thrift Shop.
The shop does not take larger items due to space constraints, but people still occasionally leave furniture in the parking lot after hours, Snyder said. Often the furniture will sit in the parking lot for days before somebody can take it to the dump. Earlier this week, a green recliner sat outside the entrance to the shop. Across the parking lot, a twin size mattress lay against a couch.
“That is a problem, and it’s something that we have to deal with,” Snyder said.
The resulting clutter is both bad for appearance and violates the city’s municipal code. The city has hounded the Heritage Center about removing the furniture, Waldron said, adding that it “doesn’t look good for the museum.” The board’s decision comes as the Heritage Center is trying to increase its visibility in the community. Restoration work was recently completed inside the building, and the Heritage board is actively working to promote the museum and raise awareness. It recently changed its name from the Rifle Creek Center for Historic Preservation to the Rifle Heritage Center because it was deemed more marketable.
Snyder said she understood why the Heritage Board decided to end the lease in favor of using the space for Ute storage; she called the concerns “legitimate.”
Waldron said he and others are hopeful the Thrift Shop can find a larger space allowing it to serve more people.
That would be perfect, Snyder said, but they have not had much luck with finding a new location. Options are limited because the store does not make enough money to pay much in rent, Snyder said. Ideally, a future location would be in a central location accessible to those who cannot drive, she added.
The Thrift Shop would have to close if it cannot find a new location relatively soon. That would be a huge loss to people like Carmen Banuelos. A Rile resident and mother of two, Banuelos said she regularly visits the store to buy items at a much cheaper price compared to retail stores.
“It’s not only me, a lot of people come here,” she said. “It’s better to buy it here.”
Losing the store, Banuelos said, would be a huge loss for her and the others who see the store and its volunteers as “family.”
The shop heard talk about the Heritage Center ending the agreement prior to receiving the letter in May, so Snyder said she contacted Rifle Planning Director Nathan Lindquist to see if the city had any space available for rent. Lindquist said he explored several options on behalf of the thrift store, but none of those avenues proved fruitful. Snyder remains hopeful, but time is running out.
“We’re keeping our ears and eyes open,” she said.
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