Salvation Army celebrates thrift store’s return to Eagle River

Monday, April 23, 2018 - 11:28

Like a comfy old recliner that just needed a second chance to rock, an Eagle River thrift store has found new life in a new home.

Gone since November 2012, the Salvation Army Family Store officially marched back into town Friday at a festive grand opening that featured a sun-splashed celebration complete with balloons, a food truck dishing free hot dogs and a parking lot full of $1 Levis.

“I’m glad it didn’t rain,” observed Salvation Army Maj. Paul Chouinard, the project manager who gave a tour Friday of the new store, which is located at 12001 Business Boulevard in the Eagle River Town Center building.

As he pointed to various items on the shelves of the brightly lit, 24,000-square foot store, Chouinard explained the Salvation Army was always hopeful of returning to Eagle River, where the charitable organization operated a thrift store until November 2012. But due in part to rising rent, the group decided to leave to leave its former location along the Old Glenn Highway and close up shop.

But Eagle River had always been a good location, and the organization always wanted to come back.

“We thought, ‘We’ll buy our own space,’” Chouinard said.

For almost two years, the Salvation Army has been renovating the new store. Residents have noticed the progress, especially after the large sign pole near the intersection of Business Boulevard and the Old Glenn went up. The location opened quietly on April 21 and has seen a steady increase of customers through word-of-mouth.

On Saturday, the aisles were packed with the usual assortment of browsers, pickers and lookie-loos found in most secondhand stores. There to greet them were an impressive display of items, ranging from high-end artwork and furniture to cheap bric-a-brac.

“We’ve saved up stuff for over a year,” for the location, Chouinard said.

Among the most eye-catching items — and price tags — in the store is a Bev Doolittle print that’s selling for a cool $7,900.

Chouinard said he hopes the store can provide something for buyers of all sorts.

“I’m sure this is one of the largest thrift stores in Alaska,” said Chouinard, who also oversees the group’s Mountain View, Dimond and Wasilla stores.

The store will employ about a dozen employees, Chouniard said, with a mix of full- and part-time staff.

Although everyone from hipsters seeking vinyl to thrifty parents looking for deals on back-to-school clothes will benefit from the new store, Chouinard said there’s actually a bigger purpose behind the new store.

“We help about 200 men per year at our rehab center,” he said.

The nonprofit uses its thrift stores to fund the Anchorage Rehab Center, which Chouniard said is a Christian-based, in-patient recovery program for men. He said the program boasts a recovery rate that’s three times the national average, and said 35 percent of those in recovery stay for the full six-month program.

“No one’s getting rich,” he said. “We’re just helping some guys with their drug addiction and alcoholism.”

Although the free hot dogs were only for Friday’s grand opening, Chouinard said the $1 jeans and sweaters will be on sale all weekend. He also said anyone wishing to help the organization is welcome to drop off items at the drop box in the store’s parking lot.

“We always need donations,” he said.

Contact Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected] or (907) 205-0082.

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