After several months of careful planning, the People With AIDS Coalition of Utah’s newest venture Our Store, Your Thrift Alternative will open to the public—just in time for the holiday shopping season.
“We are very excited about this project,” said Toni Johnson, director of PWACU. “The thrift store is going to make PWACU self-sufficient so we can improve our existing programs and expand our programs as well for people living with HIV and AIDS.”
As a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, PWACU receives no federal or state funding and relies completely upon donations. Ninety-one percent of its funds go towards its programs for people with HIV/AIDS which include: HIV/AIDS education, wellness programs, recreation programs, support groups and providing payees for social security benefits.
The store’s opening comes after several months of intense planning and negotiations. “It’s been overwhelming, exciting, terrifying, and wonderful all at the same time,” said Johnson. “It’s been a lot of work, but thankfully I’ve had great support from community and volunteers to make this happen. Without community support we couldn’t do this.”
The thrift store’s home is now 358 S 300 E in Salt Lake City. Located half a block from the Salt Lake City Public Library and the University of Utah TRAX line, the 5,000 square foot store is, according to Johnson “a great location.”
But to be a great shopping location, Our Store needs items to sell. Currently, Johnson is interested in accepting just about everything including the kitchen sink: appliances, electronics, furniture, kitchenware, clothing, shoes, jewelry, tools, glassware, art, books, CDs, videos, DVDs and knick-knacks are all acceptable items to bring in if they are clean and in saleable condition. The only thing the store can’t accept, Johnson said, is used mattresses, because they are too difficult and costly to sanitize for reselling.
Although the store did not officially begin accepting donations until Oct. 20, Johnson joked that so many people had brought donations that she barely had any office space left.
“We’re already overflowing,” she laughed. She encouraged people to continue bringing in donations, however, in order to fill the store before its Oct. 31 opening.
Along with merchandise, PWACU will also need volunteers to accept and clean donations, price items, create displays and to help out with every other aspect of running the store.
“I have staff to run the store but it’s going to be a huge job and they can’t do it by themselves,” she said.
Although the thrift store is run and operated by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, Johnson added that everyone is welcome to shop there regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It’ll be a fun environment. It’s a gay thrift store! How can it not be fun?” she said.
Our Store will hold a Halloween party open house on Oct. 31 from 5—8:00 p.m. “People are always welcome to come dressed up. I can’t promise I’ll be dressed up, by they can,” Johnson joked. Visitors will be able to make purchases and bring in donations at this time. The store’s grand opening will be Nov. 1 from 10:00 a.m.— 7:00 p.m.
Currently Our Store is scheduled to be open seven days a week: 11:00 a.m.—8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m.—7:00 p.m. Saturday and 10:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m. Sunday.
To donate or volunteer contact Toni Johnson at (801) 484-2205.