SEATTLE – After being closed for three months because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a trio of thrift stores operated by St. Vincent de Paul Seattle-King County reopened June 16. Proceeds from the stores help support the nonprofit’s programs to assist the poor.
The organization also announced a $1.5 million emergency fundraising campaign to help cover the loss of revenue during the store closures and to support two funds — one for rental assistance in South King County, where the need is disproportionate, and another to help undocumented families “who are struggling without work and without public benefits or stimulus checks,” said Mirya Muñoz-Roach, executive director.
During the pandemic, requests for rent assistance have nearly tripled, she said, adding that she expects the agency to be swamped with requests when pandemic-related eviction moratoriums in Seattle and King County expire later this year.
A safe shopping experience
Signs around the Burien St. Vincent de Paul thrift store remind customers of measures being taken because of COVID-19. Photo: Northwest Catholic
The reopened stores in Burien, Kenmore and Renton are stocked with good-quality donations — apparently everyone was cleaning out their closets during the stay-at-home order — and the organization has spent time making sure shoppers can feel comfortable returning to the in-store environment, according to Jim McFarland, marketing and communications director.
“Our shopping aisles will be one-way only and they’ll be marked with tape,” he said. Markings on the floor will help people keep 6 feet apart in the aisles and the checkout line. Protective plexiglass has been installed at the checkout stations, and employees are wearing masks and routinely cleaning around the store.
Based on an occupancy formula in the state’s reopening regulations, only 11 people (not including staff) can be in the Renton store at one time; that number rises to 15 at the Burien store and 22 at Kenmore. All customers are being asked to wear facemasks.
The stores in Kent and on Aurora Avenue in Seattle haven’t reopened yet.
Considering the retail future
About three years ago, St. Vincent de Paul began considering the future of its retail operations and exploring new ways to serve the community using its store properties, the organization said in a memo shared with its parish-based conferences in early June.
With competition from online shopping and other thrift shops, SVdP began analyzing its retail operations in the areas of shopping trends, sales performance, the cost of doing business, long-range potential and the impact of the pandemic. One decision that has been made is reducing the size of the Kenmore store by 7,000 square feet to provide more warehouse space for donations.
SVdP is going to promote the value of its thrift stores more heavily with a younger audience, McFarland said. Thrift is a reuse and recycling operation, he said, and “younger people, particularly millennials, are much more into recycling and reuse than older people are.”
Another idea being studied is reducing the retail footprint at some stores so space for social service programs can be expanded.
“With Kent, we have some big dreams,” Muñoz-Roach said. The agency’s Centro Rendu Latino services program has outgrown its space at the Kent store, so the retail footprint may shrink to allow Centro Rendu to expand, she explained. “We hope that maybe some donors will step in and help us,” she added.
“It’s good to have a footprint out there in the community,” Muñoz-Roach said. “The people we serve [are] very comfortable in that environment.”
St. Vincent de Paul is in its 100th year of operations in King County, and “everything that’s happening is an opportunity for us to continue to discern what are we called to do with our properties for the next 100 years,” Muñoz-Roach said.
An employee of the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Renton welcomes customers back. Photo: Courtesy St. Vincent de Paul Seattle-King County
To celebrate the reopening of its stores in Burien, Kenmore and Renton, St. Vincent de Paul is offering a buy one, get one promotion through June 23.
Shopping hours at all three locations are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Donations of clothing and household items are being accepted at the three stores from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Furniture donations are not being accepted or picked up until further notice.
Donations (except furniture) are also being accepted at the Georgetown donation center in Seattle, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
Proceeds from store sales help fund the nonprofit’s services to those in need.
Jean Parietti is the local news editor for NWCatholic.org and features editor for Northwest Catholic magazine. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean Parietti es editora local para el sitio web NWCatholic.org y destacada editora de la revista Noroeste Católico/Northwest Catholic. Pueden contactarle en: email@example.com.