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."