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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Social Service League Thrift Store seeking financial help from public as rent issue emerges

June 18, 2014

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The merchandise is still cheap, but the store's rent no longer is, and that is creating worries for the leaders of Lawrence's Social Service League Thrift Store.

The city's longest-running charitable organization is putting out the call for help as it tries to figure out how to pay its $2,000 per month lease on temporary space it occupies near 11th and New Hampshire streets.

"Most months we're lucky if we have $2,000 in sales, so that is kind of a dilemma," said Jean Ann Pike, director of the league and its thrift store.

The store last year temporarily moved out of its longtime home near Ninth and Rhode Island streets because of construction work that was happening next door for a multistory Marriott hotel. Developers of the hotel project agreed to refurbish a portion of the thrift store's building, in part, because there was concern the building was in such bad shape that it could be destabilized by the heavy construction happening nearby.

During the rehabilitation project, the hotel development company agreed to pay the lease for the temporary space at 11th and New Hampshire streets, which used to house Allen Press. But the rehabilitation work is now done, and developers have said the thrift store can move back to its original location.

Pike, though, said Social Service League leaders have decided a move wouldn't be feasible at this time for a couple of reasons. For one, the alley behind the store is still closed because of construction, which would make deliveries to the store difficult. A second concern is that the Social Service League is about to start a construction project of its own. The league has received about $30,000 in grant money to stabilize the front portion of the building, which has a weak flooring system. Pike said the league's contractor estimates that project will stretch into December, and it would be best if the public isn't in the area during the construction.

"So, we're just trying to put things together in a blind panic to make it all work," Pike said.

The store already has extended its hours to 40 hours a week, up from 28, in an effort to draw more business to help pay the rent. The store is now open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. But Pike said leaders also are encouraging community members to make monetary donations or hold fundraisers on behalf of the league.

The league operates the thrift store as a place where people in need can buy clothing, housewares and other goods for a cheap price, so Pike said raising the prices on items isn't a strategy league leaders want to take.

"We don't want to pay for this on the backs of the people we're trying to serve," Pike said.

Pike said she is not upset with the development group's decision to stop paying the rent at the 11th and New Hampshire space. She said the group — which is led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton and Lawrence architect Mike Treanor — followed through on what they said they would do.

"I'm not unhappy with them," Pike said. "I'm just unhappy with the situation. But the developers were absolutely gracious throughout this."

Micah Kimball with Treanor Architects said the development group spent about $100,000 stabilizing and refurbishing the old cinder block building that has served as the back half of the Social Service League Thrift Store. He said work included stabilization, insulation, new heating and cooling systems, new bathrooms, new dressing rooms, new ceilings and several other improvements.

"We think it was an excellent project," Kimball said.

Pike said league members are pleased with the results.

"You go inside and it looks like a new building," she said. "It is great, but now we just need to figure out how to get through these next few months."

Comments

Bob Forer 1 month, 1 week ago

If the goal of the store is to serve low income folks, I would think they might be better served by moving to a less pricey location and offering lower prices to those in need. While the target market may be low income people, I am wondering whether the downtown location is the best location for that market.

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Kevin Elliott 1 month, 1 week ago

Bob, it should be asked the cost of moving, deposits, where they could find a place with a short term lease? The costs and logistics involved in a short term move for this business would be astounding.

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Elizabeth Newman 1 month, 1 week ago

$2000 dollar lease?? WTF?? Who signed on the dotted line for that?? The property is worth it to a successful for profit business...but for a thrift shop to pay (temporarily) $2000 is ridiculous...it may be better to store the stuff and wait until the one near ninth and Rhode Island is ready...either that or get the rent lowered.

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 month, 1 week ago

Haven't you heard. The future plans are to tear down the building and build loft apartments.

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Janet Cinelli 1 month, 1 week ago

I am on the board of directors of the Social Service League. As such, I am happy to respond to these questions. When we moved to this location last fall, the cost was irrelevant as we weren't paying for it. To us what mattered was that the location was close to our long term home, which the Allen Press building is. Pretty much exactly when the Compton/Treanor team finished our project, we were awarded two grants totaling $30,000 for fixing up the other portion of our building. It is work that needs to be done, but wouldn't be in the budget without these grants. We have been given the strong advice not to move back until this other work is done. While we could use half of our store, more than 50% of it could not be occupied. Please understand, this has not been an easy decision. Our choices are (1) move home to a space that is 50% of our normal space; (2) move somewhere else which is a herculean effort, and not without a lot of expense; (3) stay put. What would you do?

As far as being downtown -- our long-term home is at 901 Rhode Island, this was a decision that was made in the late 1800's. We have owned our building for a very long time, and it is where it is.

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Bob Forer 1 month, 1 week ago

I would sell the building at 901 Rhode Island. Probably is worth quite a bit because of its location, and buy or lease something cheaper. With the passage of over 100 years, circumstances change.

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Ken Lassman 1 month, 1 week ago

The Social Service League plays an important role in the fabric of East Lawrence. To move it to, say 23rd and Ousdahl or somewhere out west on 6th street would remove this East Lawrence institution from its roots in that neighborhood, something that is worth quite a bit, in my estimation. Most of the leadership that has kept the SSL going continuously since Quantrill's Raid has come from East Lawrence people, as they understand this valuable link. Selling this historic building might give the SSL a temporary shot in the arm financially but, like cutting blossoms to make a pretty vase of flowers, cut it off from its roots only to wilt and die a short time later. I say keep the SSL rooted where it has thrived all these years.

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Jim Slade 1 month, 1 week ago

50% of the space with $0 lease sounds like it isn't so bad, especially since it's only temporary.

Adapt and overcome. Ask yourselves this question... is losing 50% of your space for 6 months worth more or less than $12,000?

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Janet Cinelli 1 month, 1 week ago

Your question is a good one, but you have forgotten the other side of the equation: the people we serve. If we were to move home now, we would lose retail space, equating to fewer people we can serve, people who have come to rely on the League. Back to school and the fall coming into Christmas are very important times for the League and our population. Alas, it just isn't as easy of a decision as you suggest. Store revenues aren't our only consideration.

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 month, 1 week ago

Isn't the same person who owns the space they are leasing also the same person behind building this hotel? Since part of the reason their alley is blocked, shouldn't they be providing the space for free?

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