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Serenity House buys property for thrift store
by MATTHEW NASH
Serenity House of Clallam County has purchased the Kite Girl Plaza in Sequim for its new thrift store location.
The new spot at 577 W. Washington St. comprises three buildings, one vacant, one currently housing KSQM-FM radio and In Graphic Detail, and the large building formerly housing Swain’s Outdoor.
“We did our due diligence and made this selection, knowing how important it was to get the right property for the thrift store,” said Brando Blore, president of the Serenity House board of directors.
RE/MAX Fifth Avenue brokered the sale, worth $1.1 million, by the Robert and Edithanne Rittenhouse Trust of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Serenity sold its thrift store site in February for $1.25 million to the City of Sequim for a future police station and city hall complex. Serenity paid off the mortgage on that property and will hold a mortgage on the new one.
The thrift store will move into the Swain’s Outdoor space.
“We’ll have more room to receive donations and display merchandise and more work space for our volunteers and more shopping for our customers,” store manager Bel Muñoz said.
Kathy Wahto, executive director of Serenity House, said moving to the new location will be a lengthy process.
“There’s going to be a period of time for various things getting done because the building hasn’t been in retail use for a while,” Wahto said.
Serenity does not plan a major remodel and the spot required the least investment, Wahto said.
“Some of the sites required a lot of work to even get into the building,” she said. “This building gave us twice the size of our current store and was most cost-effective for what we wanted.”
Being across the street from Goodwill isn’t daunting to Wahto.
“We’ve been here since 2000 and when Goodwill first opened it was hard,” she said. “We like the idea of being just across the street. People can compare us. Our business and customer service is great. We’re quite the antidote to the big box store.”
Serenity’s current location at 215 N. Sequim Ave. includes a 10-unit apartment complex for those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Serenity plans to replace those units.
Wahto said they’ve gone beyond looking and some potential projects are in place.
“It’s a difficult environment right now,” she said. “We have to get capital grants and look to partnerships.”
The agreement between the city and Serenity allows for the agency to operate in the space for up to three years. Wahto said the lease is renewable, too, if the city isn’t ready to build yet.
The apartments will continue during that time and the thrift store is planned for conversion into a job training program to help people receive training in careers like appliance repair. The thrift store then would salvage appliances it might otherwise turn away.
Wahto said Serenity would make the program into its own nonprofit with help from government subsidies.
Serenity’s five-year plan is to add storage and recycling to the new site so the organization doesn’t turn donations away.
“It’s hard for us to spend a lot of money to turn things over to a landfill,” she said. “We would have space in the new location to do even more recycling and repairing of things.”
A renter’s agreement
With the property’s purchase, Child Evangelism Fellowship, a church organization connected to the former owners, will operate through July on a short-term lease before leaving the larger building, Wahto said.
Larry Perry, co-owner of In Graphic Detail, has rented his spot since 2003 and said following a discussion with Serenity House the organization is open about not changing anything.
“We plan on staying,” Perry said.
KSQM-FM radio plans to stay, too, said Bob Spinks, executive director and general manager.
He said their talks were positive and he sees a natural link between the station and Serenity House — both nonprofits.
”Having such good tenants in place as neighbors is a real asset as we prepare to move to this historic location that is part of Sequim’s agricultural history,” Blore said, referring to the former Clallam Co-op granary.
For more about Serenity House, visit www.serenityhouseclallam.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 452-7224. Contact Serenity House of Clallam County’s Sequim Thrift Store at 683-8269.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.