Heidi Zemach for SCN –
Seward lost its only second-hand store when Rays Reusables burned on September 21st, 2013. So for the past year, people seeking inexpensive used goods or clothing had to travel to Anchorage or Soldotna, or relied on garage sales or rid themselves of unwanted items at the Seward transfer facility. So there’s been plenty of excitement generated by the news that a group of four local residents have rented and renovated the Old Western Auto building at the corner of Third and Fifth Avenues, and plan to open a new thrift store there in a couple of weeks.
Seward’s saviors are Melissa Houselog, Shelly Shank, Michelle Blalock and Brad Entwisle. All of them have other full-time jobs, but wanted to help fill a need in the community that was created when Rays went away. They will share the tasks of running of the store together, keeping it open for as many hours as they can, given their own time constraints and utility costs.
“Were all very excited to get opened,” Shank said. “I think it’ll be a big hit.” They’ve removed the old carpet, sanded the floor, painted the walls, built changing rooms, and are just about ready to go, except for some additional building maintenance that was recently discovered, and that has to be dealt with, Entwisle said.
As word slowly spread throughout the community, many have stopped by to inquire when it’s opening, or have donated goods for the store to sell. They’ve almost filled up their entire second floor storage area, which also houses a washer and dryer. The store’s website: Facebook.com/ukanuzit had received 244 likes by mid-week, Shank said. At the grand opening, which will be announced in the local media, Shank plans to cook up a big pot of soup, and to hold drawings for prizes or give away some things to make the event fun.
The store, aptly named Ukanuzit will sell everything one can expect- gently-used clothing, books, household items and furniture, and the owners may eventually travel to some of the larger outlying communities to obtain some things they lack, Entwisle said. Meanwhile, they ask that residents not donate very large items such as refrigerators or stoves for space reasons. To keep insurance costs lower they’re also discouraging donated appliances and electronics that would have to be plugged in and tested before they are purchased.
Once they’re up and running, the business owners hope to give a little back to the community by helping those less fortunate purchase what they need there. SeaView’s Domestic Violence Sexual Assault program and other agencies or programs will be able to give their clients vouchers worth a certain amount of money for purchasing things at the store like a warm coat or boots, bedding, inexpensive clothing, or whatever they may need.
Entwisle envisions the store will be much like Rays Reusables, but its goods may be more organized, and every item will have a price tag. Each of the four managers will be responsible for a different area of the store. Entwisle will be responsible for the auto parts portion at the rear of the store. Many items were left behind from the former auto parts store.
The building isn’t insulated, so keeping it heated for customers during the dark winter months will be costly, and could limit the number of hours that they can keep the store open, Entwisle said. It’ll be a work in progress.
Those wishing to donate items please call Shank at 362-1383. Or visit Facebook.com/ukanuzit.