Construction-Focused Thrift Store Restructuring For Retail

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An infographic from the Wood River Land Trust showing the impact private donations can make on the environment. Image credit: Wood River Land Trust

Wood River Land Trust seeks volunteer help

By Eric Valentine

A note taped to the front door of Building Material Thrift informs customers of the reduced hours. Photo credit: Eric Valentine

One of the Valley’s more unique nonprofit businesses—Building Material Thrift—is not closing, as many construction businesses and do-it-yourselfers in the community had worried. But it is restructuring, turning its construction-oriented sales focus into a more generalized retail-friendly one.

According to the Wood River Land Trust—the organization that operates the store—the shift is being done to make the store more profitable and would mirror the business models many other area nonprofits use to support their fundraising goals.

“Our goal is to not have the store close, so we’re restructuring,” the land trust’s deputy director, Amy Trujillo, said.

Building A New Structure

Previously in operation Monday through Saturday and staffed by paid workers, the store is now only open on Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and run by volunteers from the Wood River Land Trust.

Trujillo said the reduced hours and volunteer staffing were necessary to make the store more profitable. However, if more volunteers step forward, hours could expand.

“If anyone wants to volunteer some time, we’d love to have them come and work the store,” Trujillo said. “Any little bit helps.”

Where most thrift stores specialize in selling smaller wares, Building Material Thrift was known for having a full inventory of large items, from sinks and oven ranges to sheets of tile and door frames. In short, it’s where you’d go with your truck, not your sedan. That all could change if the land trust goes the way of, for instance, The Community Library in Ketchum, which operates The Gold Mine Thrift Store. That thrift keeps its inventory limited to, among other things, apparel, books, electronics and some furniture.

“They’ve been successful in that model and that’s maybe the direction we need to go,” Trujillo said. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out now.”

While retail friendliness could trigger better revenues, the refocus could blur the nonprofit’s mission—to protect and restore land, water and wildlife habitat. Reusing large-scale building materials and keeping tons of non-biodegradable products out of landfills fit cleanly into that mantra and filled a niche otherwise left vacant in the Valley.

“We like having a construction focus and we hope to keep offering that,” Trujillo said. “But the first priority is keeping the store running.”

For more information about the Wood River Land Trust or to volunteer, visit the organization online at woodriverlandtrust.org or call (208) 788-3947.

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