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Archive for Saturday, November 30, 2013

Social Service League Thrift Store doing booming business at new location

November 30, 2013

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Even though work has just begun on a multistory hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire streets, the project has business booming at one downtown store.

Sales are up by an estimated 30 percent at the not-for-profit Social Service League Thrift Store, which was temporarily relocated from its home near the hotel construction site to a new location near 11th and New Hampshire streets.

"We are drawing in traffic we never had before," store manager Jean Ann Pike said of the new location in the former Allen Press property. "We are so visible now."

The store moved in the last days of August from its location at 905 Rhode Island Street because construction of the hotel was going to severely limit access to the store.

Pike said the new space, a large open warehouse that used to house a printing plant, has made it easier for the store to display its merchandise, which includes second-hand clothes, house wares and other items.

"This is a pretty sweet spot," Pike said. "It is a comfortable space, and it is very easy for us to work in."

It also has made it easier for people to drop off donations of items, she said. The building is equipped with a large loading dock.

But there are no plans for the Social Service League to stay at the new location. A group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton is finalizing a deal to build a seven-story retail and apartment building on the site of the Allen Press property.

Instead, Compton. who also leads the group building the hotel at Ninth and New Hampshire, is working on a project to refurbish the Social Service League space at 905 Rhode Island. A timeline to complete that project hasn't been determined yet, Compton said, but the space will be ready by the time the hotel project is completed next year.

The Social Service League's Rhode Island space includes a historic, stone home that is used as makeshift store space, and a cinder block building that houses the main section of the store. Compton said there has been consideration given to tearing down the cinder block building and replacing it with a new structure, but he said a more likely scenario is a refurbishment of the cinder block building to make it more energy efficient. In the meantime, Compton has arranged for the store to remain at the former Allen Press property.

Pike said she's willing to wait while architects review the options.

"We just know we need to get comfortable here for awhile," Pike said. "And that's fine because everybody has been real good to us here."

The increased sales also are going to lead to good things on the social service front, Pike said. The store uses profits from its sales to provide clothing and other store items to people in need. It also runs an eye glasses program for people in need.

"The increased business just means we're going to be able to help more people," Pike said.

Pike is optimistic that the store is gaining new customers for the long term.

"I think whoever sees us here will follow us back to our old location," Pike said. "Once you become part of the Social Service League, you don't leave."

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