One person’s junk is more than another one’s treasure, as it turns out; now, it is a means of funding direct financial assistance for those facing the challenges of breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks is now in the thrifting business, having this month acquired two Neat Repeats Boutique Thrift Store locations, one in Springfield and the other in Ozark.
The stores were previously operated by the Freedom’s Rest Family Violence Center, a Nixa-based nonprofit providing shelter and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence.
Joe Daues, executive director of BCFO, said plans for BCFO to enter the thrifting space have been in the works for a long time, but the opportunity to purchase two Neat Repeats outlets arose in August, initiating a speedy process. The Ozark store remained open through the purchase, while the Springfield store has been closed for three weeks, with plans to open soon – “Any day now,” Daues said. He did not disclose the purchase price of the operations.
For the past 13 years, the administrative expenses of BCFO have been funded in part through a contract to provide Department of Motor Vehicle services.
“This year, we lost two of our DMV offices, one on Glenstone Avenue in Springfield and the other in Joplin,” he said. “They were handed over to a competitor, and so we started looking at another potential business.”
According to past Springfield Business Journal reporting, the contracts to operate the offices were awarded to Crystal Webster, former executive director of BCFO, who is now CEO of Morelock Builders & Associates. For both closures, BCFO filed for administrative review against the Missouri Department of Revenue in Cole County Circuit Court. The Springfield office case is ongoing, while this summer the Joplin case was dismissed without prejudice, meaning it can be brought again. BCFO continues to administer three DMV offices, in Republic, Nixa and Ozark.
In the past, the five DMV offices generated enough revenue to cover all administrative costs for BCFO, Daues stated in previous reporting. BCFO began operation in 2000, and since that time has distributed $7.9 million in aid. Daues said on average, BCFO gets 30 new clients every month.
But for Daues and BCFO, the mission continues, and a new funding stream was needed.
“We’ve done quite a bit of market research; in fact, I’d written up a business plan months ago and realized there was great potential in it,” he said, though he did not disclose the revenue potential anticipated from a store.
As luck would have it, the Neat Repeat outlets became available as BCFO was searching out a location for its own thrift store. Daues said he got a call from a friend informing him that the Springfield store was going out of business and selling its fixtures.
So Daues went, and there he encountered Matthew Ennis, executive director of Freedom’s Rest.
“He said, ‘We’re getting out of the thrift store business,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s funny, because we’re considering getting into the thrift store business,’” Daues recalled.
With further conversation, Daues learned Freedom’s Rest was selling its Ozark store, its Springfield store and its Ozark warehouse.
Change of plans
Amy Hobson, manager of the Ozark location of Neat Repeats, was in Springfield on the day of Daues’ visit.
“We had a line all the way from the counter to the door,” said Amy Hobson, Ozark store manager. “People were waiting for 35 minutes to purchase our liquidation items. It was a very, very busy day.”
Hobson figured she’d be hunting for work soon, but on that day, she didn’t have time to think about it.
Jeremy Woods, manager of the Springfield store, was also working the closeout sale and seeing the faces of the customers he had grown to know, perhaps for the last time.
“They come in to see what’s new, they come in to see you and catch up,” Woods said. “That’s my favorite part of the job.”
Daues said he knew he needed to keep the staff members who were interested in staying under BCFO management.
“They’re the experts in retail – not me,” he said. “I don’t need to be an expert in retail. Our job is just to help them do it efficiently.”
Under BCFO, staffers will earn a slightly higher wage than they did under their previous employer, according to Daues, who did not disclose the amount. They are also gaining the option to enroll in health, vision, dental and life insurance benefits, with BCFO paying for a portion of the health premiums. Daues said BCFO staff at the two thrift stores and the three remaining license bureau offices are grouped for coverage.
Currently, there are three employees each at the Ozark and Springfield stores, with more hires planned, and there are more than 50 license office workers in the remaining three locations, Daues said.
According to industry research firm IBISWorld, nonprofit thrift stores associated with a legally affiliated charity will bring in an estimated $14.2 billion in the U.S. in 2023, with 160,000 employees at nearly 29,000 businesses. Business is expected to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 4.5% from 2018-23, including an increase of 1.4% in 2023 alone, IBISWorld reports.
The thrifting trend is supported by environmentally conscious shopping and sustainability, the research firm reports, and clothing is the largest product segment, according to IBISWorld.
Daues was unwilling to share financial information, such as the store’s historical sales performance or the cost to rent the Ozark store location from Jared Commercial Real Estate LLC.
Although he did not disclose the cost of acquiring the stores from Freedom’s Rest, he noted that both boards aimed for a fair price.
“We discussed a price that we thought was fair given the fact that a nonprofit bought this from another nonprofit,” he said. “There was a lot of investment in this store, the other store and the warehouse that have happened over the last few years. They wanted to make sure that they didn’t lose that investment, so we did our best to cover what they had put into the store when we bought it.”
He added that the transaction marked new ground for both organizations, but both knew they wanted to move swiftly.
“I’d never bought a thrift store – our organization had never done that, and I’d never done that personally – and Freedom’s Rest had never sold one,” Daues said. “We went into this thinking we wanted to minimize harm to the staff and not skip a beat with the stores.”
Although the Springfield store was cleared out and closed during the transition, Daues said there was plenty of stock in the warehouse to fill the shelves again. No further infill purchases were needed.
“With one exception, this is a turnkey operation, and that is their truck,” he said. “They had already sold their box truck, and so we’re in the market right now to find a box truck to take things between the warehouse and the stores.”
He added that a potential third store is on the horizon.
“It’s a cliffhanger,” he joked, declining to disclose the potential location. “We have one in the works right now. It’s in the Ozarks, but not in Springfield.”
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