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July 3, 2020

6/24/2020 4:35:00 PM
Friends of Library closing book on its thrift store era
July 3-4 blowout sale
Bill Reynolds

Absent fireworks, the final chapter of the Friends of the La Conner Library Thrift Store still promises a bang-up ending with a big Independence Day weekend closing sale.

The popular Morris Street shop, its inventory overflowing with a wide array of donated items, will be scene of a blow-out sale July 3-4 from 11-5 p.m. each day.
Many are calling the store’s closure the end of an era in La Conner.

“It’s been a wonderful run,” Friends of the Library President Joan Scarboro said on Thursday. “As volunteers, working at the counter, my husband and I had a wonderful time.”
The store opened in a former automotive garage, on property purchased by the library in 2012. Since then its steady business has covered mortgage payments and more for the future site of the La Conner-Swinomish Regional Library.

The Friends group has long championed library causes.

“The Friends have supported the library since 1988 with fundraising events and projects to benefit library needs and programs,” said La Conner Library Foundation Director Susan Macek. “Over the years most of the proceeds and contributions were set aside in a special account to help support their hopes and dreams – a new library building to serve the 5,000 residents of our library district.”

Macek told the Weekly News that six years ago the Friends helped jump-start the fundraising campaign for a new library with a gift of $42,000.

“A copy of that check,” Macek said, “has hung above the door to the thrift shop ever since.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the store to lock up this spring, mere months ahead of anticipated ground-breaking for the long sought new library.

There was much thought given in past weeks to re-opening the store when cleared to do so under the statewide COVID-19 Safe Start plan. But that idea was reluctantly nixed.
The heavy workload required to re-open briefly prior to building the new library was a key factor in the decision.

“With everyone at home cleaning out their houses and closets the last three or four months, we knew we would be overwhelmed with donations,” Scarboro explained, “and we weren’t sure there would be enough people to sort through everything.

“It would have been a case,” she added, “of having to re-energize for about six weeks or two months.”

The local thrift store has been a source of energy from the outset, when it transitioned from what had been a book nook in the northwest corner of the library.

Moving into the old auto shop was no simple task. Members of the La Conner Kiwanis Club partnered with Friends of the Library, completely remodeling the building to house a venture that was expanded from book sales to a full-fledged second-hand retail outlet.

“They did the heavy lifting,” Scarboro said of La Conner Kiwanians, who have received a portion of store sales proceeds for their community service projects.

The concept of opening a thrift store coincided with library officials assessing the need for a larger facility.

“We had started talking about it,” recalled Diane Fritzler, who was President of the Friends of the Library at the time, “when the library talked about (constructing) a new building.”

The result was more cha-ching moments than anyone could have expected.

“Sales increased significantly,” Fritzler said.

The store has been served by a loyal corps of volunteers meeting the needs of an equally loyal customer base comprised of local shoppers and tourists alike.

Fritzler remembers a Bellingham couple dropping in at the store whenever they were in town.

“They came down about once a month,” she said. “They’d make it a regular stop.”

Scarboro said volunteers have carved out their respective niches at the store.

“It’s been interesting,” she said, “to see how people over the years have taken on special roles.”

Marilyn Thostenson, for instance, has taken on sorting and pricing, Scarboro said. Linda Harlow, she noted, has created thematic sales displays.

The thrift store close-out sale comes amid the virus crisis. As such, precautions will be in place both days. Masks and social distancing will be required. Hand sanitizer will be available.

Those taking part in the bargain hunting will be players in the final act for what has been a uniquely La Conner story – one that has played a key part in laying the groundwork for a new library here.

“It’s been great,” Scarboro said. “But it would have been just too hard to get up and rolling again for a such a short time.”

Conversely, the impact of the store and its Friends of the Library volunteers will be realized for a long time, according to Macek.

“They are unsung heroes whose contributions have made a big difference to the library, now and in the future,” Macek said. “I am grateful to each and every member for their commitment.”


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