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Downtown Middletown thrift store closed; reopening date uncertain but it's called 'temporary'

By David Barr

davidbarr@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 10/18/17

The Middletown Interfaith Senior Service Thrift Shop closed “temporarily” on Oct. 7 with no set date for it to reopen.

Thrift store board member Ellen Willenbecher described the move …

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Downtown Middletown thrift store closed; reopening date uncertain but it's called 'temporary'

Posted

The Middletown Interfaith Senior Service Thrift Shop closed “temporarily” on Oct. 7 with no set date for it to reopen.

Thrift store board member Ellen Willenbecher described the move as a “reorganization” and emphasized the word “temporary” when discussing the store’s closing with the Press & Journal. She called it a “hard decision, but the right decision, the only decision.”

“We are very aware we are a part of downtown Middletown. We feel a great responsibility to figure out the right thing to do for Middletown and the downtown area,” she said.

The idea for the store came about in 1974, but the shop didn’t come into existence until 1988, and it has been at its current location at 17 S. Union St. since 1991. The store doesn’t donate money to churches; it provides them with materials on an as-needed basis.

A meeting about the store’s future was held Monday, Oct. 9. Willenbecher said board members will continue to gather information to develop a plan. She declined to discuss details.

As Willenbecher described it, the store hadn’t been bringing in enough income to maintain operation and it was no longer prudent to take money out of the store’s savings account to keep the store open.

That was the same reasoning used earlier this year, when the store was possibly going to close. Larry Robbins, who then was the board president, told the Press & Journal in April that even at its peak the store did not bring in a great deal of money.

Store expenses include utilities and insurance, with insurance costs skyrocketing, Robbins said then. The store’s board chose to keep the store open for at least another year after a meeting on June 20. The board owns the store. 

Since the board’s decision in June to remain open, several actions were taken to increase business and profits. 

These actions included extending hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and having those extra hours worked by unpaid volunteers; trimming paid staff members’ hours; not filling a vacancy when one staff member took maternity leave; creating a Facebook page; and handing out fliers at the National Night Out and Middletown Home Pumpkin Fest events to inform people of the store. 

Despite those efforts, they “did not make enough difference in the financial sustainability for the thrift shop at this time,” she said.

Willenbecher was in the store Saturday and the consensus from customers was they were “sad that it happened and look forward to it coming back,” she said. 

Willenbecher said board members are not going to rush making any kind of decisions regarding the store’s future, because it’s “too important” to Middletown and its residents, as they are able to socialize and mingle and find great deals on household items at the store.