Declining sales force Port Angeles St. Vincent de Paul thrift store to close; Peninsula Mental Health to take over building
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St.Vincent De Paul worker Victoria Speer cleans a shelf amid boxes of items to be sorted in the back of the Port Angeles thrift store on Saturday. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES -- After 21 years of selling used clothing and other merchandise, the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store will close its doors for good Dec. 31.

Taking over its location at 112 E. Eighth St., in Port Angeles, will be Peninsula Mental Health, which may use it as a crisis center or health clinic for its patients, said Sandra Long, president of the Peninsula Mental Health board.

The agency purchased the building from St. Vincent de Paul for $450,000.


In decline for 6 years

Barb Townsend, store manager, said sales have been in a constant decline for the last six years, and the store can no longer sustain itself.

"It's just been a downhill slide," she said, adding that she doesn't know what caused it.

"If I did, I would have solved the problem."

Construction of the Eighth Street bridges and several thefts last summer didn't help, Townsend said.

"We gained some people with the [opening of the new bridges], but we didn't gain a lot," she said.

A man charged with stealing $126.75 from the cash register, Scott E. Vess, will be tried Monday.

Townsend said that thefts from the store over the summer totaled $1,900. A store camera recorded thefts totaling $126.75.

Any profit the store generates goes to charity, but the store hasn't generated any in the last five years, Townsend said.

"It used to go back into the community for people in need," she said. "All we've done is maintain operating expenses."

Townsend said St. Vincent de Paul will continue to assist the needy through grants and its parish, Queen of Angels, even if it doesn't have a store.

"The thrift store was one small piece of income for St. Vincent de Paul," she said.

The store first opened about a block away and has been at its current location since 2000.

Townsend said that closing the store wasn't an easy decision.

"It took us three years," she said, "three years of prayer, crying, moaning, trying everything we can try."


Layoffs, no salary

That included laying three people off and not taking a salary for herself, Townsend said.

The decision to close was made last spring.

She said the store is no longer accepting donations, and staff will cut prices to get rid of the merchandise before it closes.

The store, which employs four people through Olympic Community Action Programs, will keep the same hours, which are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

If there is leftover merchandise, Townsend said she will extend the closing date and donate some to other St. Vincent de Paul stores.

Townsend said the store is using the money from the sale of the building to pay off its mortgage, so it won't have any debt when it closes.

Long said Peninsula Mental Health needs room to expand, although a decision hasn't been made on what to use the building for or when to move in.

Possibilities are a crisis center or health clinic.

A feasibility study will be done before that decision is made, Long said.

Long didn't have a count Saturday on how many people use Peninsula Mental Health's services in a year or month.

If it is used as a crisis center, Long said mentally ill people in crisis could be treated there, rather than sent to Olympic Medical Center or the Clallam County jail.

"It would be a medical place to take them where they can immediately have that crisis seen to, rather than wait in an emergency room with a police officer or in a jail with no medical attention," she said.

A health clinic would be used to provide both physical and mental health services to patients, Long said.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 08. 2009 10:22PM
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