Thrift store Value Village is closing its Vancouver location after property owner Dick Hannah Dealership declined to renew the company’s lease when it expires at the end of the year. The store will become a Dodge Ram truck dealership and is aiming for a February opening.
“We knew about it a little while ago,” said store manager Steve Calderon. “The lease actually went through next year, but apparently there was an option to terminate early and the landlord opted to take advantage of that.”
The store’s last day is Nov. 12. Store managers announced the closure at a staff meeting before opening Tuesday morning. Many employees said they were devastated by the news and the prospect of facing unemployment before the holidays.
“We’re just all really upset,” said Melissa Peru, 29, who has worked at the store off-and-on for the past decade. “It’s a bit of a shock. A lot of people are really emotional.”
The news didn’t surprise everyone. Value Village had been hunting for a new location after Dick Hannah Dealerships bought the 3.71-acre property for $4.3 million in May 2015. According to managers of the store, which employs nearly 40 people, the company could not find a location that could meet its demands for size or provide the kind of access to field the numerous donations that make up the store’s inventory. Some places also do not want to allow thrift stores, supervisor Rhonda Arnoth said.
“There’s a stigma that thrift stores are bad, but this is a store that’s been here over 20 years. Some of the locations in close proximity aren’t letting us in,” she said.
The store was thriving at its current location, 7110 N.W. Fourth Plain Blvd., Arnoth said. Calderon added that the Bellevue-based parent company, Savers, will likely want to open another Value Village in this market sooner rather than later. The next-closest location is in Tigard, Ore., where some employees are said to be transferring.
“As a company, we want to come back to this market. The conditions just weren’t feasible at this time,” Calderon said.
Jason Hannah, vice president of Dick Hannah Dealerships, said the company plans to rebuild part of the store’s facade and off-load much of its Dodge Ram truck inventory to the new location. They expect to employ 30 to 40 people there. He said they also are looking into recruiting some of Value Village’s employees.
“I can certainly appreciate their frustration,” Hannah said of Value Village’s employees. “And I think I would have expected that Value Village would find another location, you know. However, like I said, we’re hiring, so hopefully they can come work for us.”
Savers contracts with charities to use their names and branding in their marketing. In exchange, Savers pays the charities, often by weight, for used goods and sells them in its stores. Among those charities are several branches of The Arc of the United States, including the Vancouver-based Arc of Southwest Washington.
David Wunderlin, executive director of the Southwest Washington branch, said it’s unclear how Value Village’s closure will impact the nonprofit.
“I would hope over the next week or so we’ll hear all we need to know,” Wunderlin said.
A “significant portion” of the nonprofit’s income comes from selling used goods to Savers. Not having that relationship would “definitely hurt The Arc,” Wunderlin said. That money goes toward programs that help those with autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and other developmental or intellectual disabilities.
The Arc needs to make about $20,000 to $30,000 every month through clothing collection to meet its budget, according to Columbian archives. Former executive director Michael Piper said in May that The Arc is paid 41 cents for every pound of clothing and 14.3 cents for every pound of miscellaneous goods. (Wunderlin took over for Piper this summer.)
When Wunderlin talked to the president of Value Village a few weeks ago, he was told that the company would keep its contract with The Arc of Southwest Washington regardless of whether its continued the lease at its current location. Value Village has been a good partner and when they say they’ll honor the contract, “I believe them,” Wunderlin said. He hopes that Value Village will look for another location in the community.
“I don’t know if that is still out of the question. I hope not. I think the community needs that kind of store,” Wunderlin said. “I’m hoping this isn’t the end.”
The Arc of Southwest Washington aims to diversify its revenue to make it less reliant on the money it gets from Value Village. The Arc of King County and The Arc of Spokane both get most of their funding — and raise millions of dollars more than the Southwest Washington branch — through grants, contracts and other requests for funding.
Years ago, The Arc went through a budget meltdown, lost some public contracts and laid off more than half its staff. After what used to be The Arc of Clark County absorbed three similarly struggling sister agencies in Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties and renamed itself The Arc of Southwest Washington, things slid toward insolvency. While auditors suggested the nonprofit file for bankruptcy and shut down, the board of directors wanted to make it work. Piper spent his three-year tenure at The Arc getting it afloat financially.
Wunderlin said the agency now doesn’t have debt aside from the mortgage on its building at 6511 N.E. 18th St. in Vancouver.
While people do a great job donating used goods to The Arc, it hasn’t typically gotten a lot of financial donations, Wunderlin said. So, he suggests that as the holiday season approaches people consider making donations online at www.arcswwa.org to keep its programs going. The organization serves about 160 people and aims to serve more.