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Archive for Wednesday, April 3, 2002

Thrift shop thrives in new location

April 3, 2002

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For decades, Lawrence's thrift shops have peddled used goods from inconspicuous buildings throughout town.

But in September, Goodwill Industries opened a new store in one of the city's major shopping arteries, just off South Iowa Street.

John Carey, manager of the new store, said Goodwill grabbed hold of an opportunity to grow at 2200 W. 31st St.

"It just seemed like a prime location when 84 Lumber went out of business," Carey said. "They got a deal on this building and renovated it, basically to try to expand."

The store's arrival has driven new competition for the thrift dollar. Just ask Ed Craig, who manages the Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store in the Southern Hills Mall near 23rd Street and Ousdahl Road. He'll tell you the Goodwill store affects business at the DAV.

"Sure it does," he said. "It cuts into us. We noticed a difference right away."

But other shops in town  even Plymouth Thrift Shop, which closed at the end of last year because it could no longer afford the rent at its Tennessee Street location  say they haven't noticed much difference in business since the Goodwill store opened.

Not a factor

Plymouth Thrift Shop had been a Lawrence fixture since 1955. But in January 1999, it moved from a house owned by Plymouth Congregational Church at 945 Vt. to a house at 905 Tenn., where it paid $1,000 in rent each month to Ninth Street Baptist Church.

Deb Chausee, who directed the thrift shop for eight years until it closed at the end of December, said the decrease in business that kept the store from being able to afford its rent likely was caused by the store's lack of visibility at the busy intersection of Ninth and Tennessee streets.

"Being on Tennessee, people are by us before they ever see where we are," Chausee said.

She didn't think increased competition generated by the new Goodwill store played any role in her store's demise.

Reed Peterson, manager of the Salvation Army Thrift Store since 1983, said he noticed a slight dent in sales the first few weeks after the Goodwill store opened in September, but said things evened out when the store's newness wore off.

Business has been pretty steady through most of the years Peterson has been with the Salvation Army.

"The students here in town have sort of picked up on it more in the last few years than they did in the past," he said.

'Big business'

Thrift stores are becoming a "big business now," Peterson said. "That's why Goodwill came in."

There's enough demand for thrift store variety and prices to go around, said Linda Lassen, director of Penn House, 1035 Pa. The organization, which began in 1969 in Lawrence, doesn't actually sell items. It simply collects donations and then distributes them to low-income clients. But Lassen said she hadn't noticed a dip in donations since Goodwill moved in.

"I feel there's enough people in the community that everything goes around equally," she said.

Jean Ann Pike, administrator at the Social Service League Thrift Store, said there was still a niche in Lawrence for her store, which has been part of the city since 1863.

"According to our charter, we have to be the most inexpensive thrift store in the county," she said. "A lot of folks just still can't afford the secondhand stores. As much as Goodwill is serving the same population we are, we're still serving yet another population."

Good location?

Carey said the Goodwill store has been, except in a few isolated instances, well-received by members of the Lawrence community. And business is good.

"It keeps us busy," he said. "We still have marks that we're trying to hit."

Craig, the DAV manager, guessed the Goodwill store had benefited from being in a highly visible location. He said customers often had trouble finding the DAV, which is tucked into the back side of Southern Hills Mall off 23rd Street.

"We still get calls from people wondering where the store is," he said.

Carey confirmed that the Goodwill store's location, just north of SuperTarget, had been a huge asset.

"I don't think they could have asked for a better location," he said.

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