Retired Nu2U manager Barb Adair is saddened to hear of the Town of Olds’ decision to permanently close the thrift store after operating it for 12 years
OLDS — Retired Nu2U manager Barb Adair is saddened to hear of the town’s decision to permanently close the thrift store.
The town made that announcement Dec. 5.
According to chief administrative officer Brent Williams, Nu2U came into existence in 2010. Its purpose was to generate funds to support costs of Olds Neighbourhood Place. Olds Neighbourhood Place Society dissolved and in 2012 the Town of Olds took over operation of the store.
It will shut its doors for good on Dec. 22. A final clearance sale of merchandise will be held in January.
Dates for remaining stock liquidation will be posted on the town website (www.olds.ca/nu2u) and social media channels.
The plan is to be out of the space and have it ready for the landlord by Jan. 31.
An event to recognize past and present Nu2U volunteers and staff will be held in February.
During the morning of Dec. 5, town officials met with Nu2U staff and volunteers earlier that day to give them the bad news personally.
That afternoon, Community services director Doug Wagstaff gave a presentation on the plan to council. He said several factors drove the decision to shut Nu2U’s doors permanently.
They included increasing competition, poorer quality donations, declining income, and more work for municipal staff.
Barb Adair managed the store for seven-and-a-half years. She retired in 2020.
“It makes me really sad. In my mind, it was quite an iconic place. It served a lot of purposes, did a lot of good,” she said during an interview.
Adair said Nu2U performed a valuable service, serving as a place where items people no longer wanted could be resold and thus kept out of landfills.
Other thrift stores now serve that purpose as well.
In its news release, the town said when it acquired Nu2U, there were only two thrift stores in town; now there are about nine.
Wagstaff also said the quality of items donated to Nu2U declined over time, to the point where some of it was “junk.”
Over time, town staff ended up having to do things like shovel snow or take unwanted items to the landfill, taking time away from their regular duties.
Adair said Nu2U had an advantage over competitors because it had more room than some other stores and could thus provide a greater selection of items.
Adair said junked items – primarily furniture – were dropped off at Nu2U during her time running the store as well.
“I was disappointed when people would dump garbage behind our store, but at the same time, some of those things can be fixed up and still resold,” she said.
Adair said another service the store provided was issuing grants to community groups.
Since it became a municipally-owned entity, Nu2U grants obtained from the store’s operations have provided $332,421 to a wide variety of community groups.
“Grant opportunities will continue to exist to support active lifestyles, health and wellness initiatives of programs and services that cannot to be funded by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS),” the release said.
Further details about community grant opportunities will be released this spring.
The news release said another issue is that the town’s role is not generally to be running enterprises that compete with private businesses.
“A social enterprise thrift store is outside the typical realm of municipal government,” it said.
Adair said what she’ll misses the most about Nu2U was the relationships the store had with other businesses in town – swapping merchandise that one could use but the other could not.
“It was amazing. We had relationships all over town,” she said, adding that even extended to the Mountain View Food Bank.
“Sometimes we’d get food, canned food and sealed packages of food. We’d set it aside and give it to the food bank. And the same if they got something they didn’t (provide to their clientele).”
Adair feels sad for the store’s current staff and volunteers.
“It’s going to be a big void in a lot of their lives. I hope they can find new volunteer opportunities that give them as much reward as Nu2U did, because you know, you’re working personally with the customer,” Adair said.
“They’ll approach you and say, ‘do you have this?’ Or ‘I’m really looking for that.’ Sometimes when you’re volunteering, you don’t have that one-on-one so much.”
Above all, Adair feels lucky that for all those years, she got to do a job she loved.
“I feel very fortunate that I was a person who had a job that meant so much to me and I got so much out of it,” she said.
“I know there’s people that dread to go to work every day and that would be miserable,” she added. “You spend a lot of your life working, right?”
“We spent a long time looking at this and trying to find ways how it could work,” Williams said during the council meeting. “But without a significant market adjustment in both those assets Nu2U was getting donated or a decrease in our costs, it just wasn’t feasible.”
Also during the council meeting, mayor Judy Dahl expressed sadness about the Nu2U decision and praised the work of its staff and many volunteers over the years.
Deputy mayor Wanda Blatz and Coun. Heather Ryan echoed those comments.
Dahl said just the previous week, three new applications came in from potential volunteers. She urged town staff to get the word out about the decision quickly.
“This is a lifeline for a lot of our seniors,” she said.