The Arc of Spokane is expanding into Spokane Valley with its second thrift store.
The Spokane-based nonprofit is leasing the former Safeway grocery store space at 1441 N. Argonne, in the same building as a Rite Aid store and an Altitude trampoline park.
Revenue from the new 15,000-square-foot thrift store, which is expected to open in July, will go toward supporting The Arc of Spokane’s mission, says Rose Williamson, director of thrift store operations. The organization is planning to hire 19 full-time employees and a couple part-time employees at the Spokane Valley location.
“The money that we raise at the thrift store goes directly into programming for different services we provide, different advocacy efforts we provide within the community,” Williamson says.
The Arc of Spokane serves and advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the Spokane area.
Kelsey Bumgarner, director of development for The Arc of Spokane says The Arc of Spokane serves about 3,000 people with intellectual or developmental disabilities each year.
One example of its services is its supported-living department, in which The Arc of Spokane is contracted by public agencies to provide 24/7 at-home care for people with a range of disabilities in the community. The organization currently provides care through that program at 14 homes for about 50 residents, Bumgarner says.
“The goal with all of the programs that we do truly is community inclusion—that people are able to live, play, and work in a way that best suits them and in a way that they’re integrated into the community,” Bumgarner says.
While most of the nonprofit’s funding comes from the state, according to the Journal’s 2022 Largest Social-Service Nonprofit’s list, additional funding sources are needed for certain services, Bumgarner says.
“Proceeds from the thrift store are able to go into … programs that aren’t necessarily funded by external entities,” says Bumgarner.
Arc’s Spokane thrift store, located at 808 N. Ruby, takes in an estimated average of 100,000 pounds of donations from roughly 2,000 to 5,000 donors each month, Williamson says. It averages about 8,000 to 10,000 customers per month, she says.
“With thrift, it’s always profit per square foot,” Williamson says. “Since it’s smaller, we won’t make as much as we do at this location, but anything helps.”
The Spokane store is about 5,000 square feet larger than the Spokane Valley location and employs roughly 30 people.
Williamson, who has worked at The Arc of Spokane for over five years, says that thrift stores have become more popular in recent years, especially among younger generations.
“Thrift has really become a cultural thing now. You have a lot of the younger generation really concerned about the environment and recycling.”
Williamson also says that increased costs due to recent economic challenges have led more people to use thrift stores.
“College kids come in here all the time for their household stuff, or new people that are transitioning into housing, too,” Williamson says. “We really kind of hit all of the demographics.”
The Arc of Spokane thrift store sells almost any type of household item, including clothing, electronics, hardware supplies, furniture, and more. The few exceptions include mattresses, items with chemicals, or items that have been recalled, like certain car seats or cribs.
“You name it, I can sell it,” Williamson says.
Williamson says that clothing is the top revenue generator for the Spokane store. The thrift store’s staff is constantly researching various items, brands, and online sales to determine its price points.
“Now, it’s cool to shop at thrift stores,” Williamson says. “It’s great to be like ‘I paid $3 for this.’”
While the Spokane and soon-to-be Spokane Valley stores’ main purpose is to raise money to support the nonprofit’s mission, they also provide opportunities for members of the community and those that they serve.
“When we can, we try to hire kids with disabilities,” Williamson says.
Bumgarner says that The Arc of Spokane has a partnership with Spokane Public Schools that gives students the opportunity to go through an interview process, learn how to work a sales floor, and potentially earn a letter of recommendation.
“High school students will come and volunteer in order to learn job skills and social skills at the thrift store,” says Bumgarner.
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