Leti Diaz talks about thrift management | VailDaily.com

Leti Diaz talks about thrift management

Kimberly NicolettiHigh Country Business Review

This week, we interview Leti Diaz, the manager of Summit Thrift and Treasure. The store began in small space but has grown and needs to expand.Sales from the store contribute $100,000 a year to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, which helps needy people and families in Summit County through various assistance programs, from money and goods to education and services.

In 1996, the Summit County Family Resource Center (as it was then known) established the The Barn and Kids Barn, the countys only nonprofit thrift stores. Subsequently, in late 1999, the Family Resource Center board of directors seized the opportunity to purchase the former Alpine Charter School in Dillon, thus allowing it to consolidate operations, including emergency services and the thrift stores.Following that consolidation, the two thrift stores became one and were renamed Summit Thrift and Treasure.In 2000, Summit County began a community planning process focused on how to best meet the needs arising from rapidly changing demographics in Summit County. That process determined that an intercultural resource center would be ideal, and the Family Resource Center was deemed the most appropriate host for these services. To reflect its new mission, the agency became the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. The center continued to expand, and in 2002, the staff vacated the thrift store space to move to a neighboring office building. The store then increased its retail space and began maintaining the food bank. Business has been booming ever since. The building received a complete renovation this past spring, including fresh paint, new storage and displays and a brand-new floor.

Summit Thrift and Treasure brings in clients from throughout Summit County as well as from surrounding communities. The store serves not only as a retail establishment, but also, for many, as a social gathering place.

Summit Thrift and Treasure operates as an informal welcome center to the community, providing a safe, welcoming environment for newcomers to the community and those far from family. The store is stocked with resources about community programs and events and is staffed by employees who can provide appropriate and needed referrals.Summit Thrift and Treasure offers opportunities to those who volunteer time to receive store credit for purchase of merchandise or use at the food bank, greatly-needed resources for many in Summit County. Lunch is provided to those who volunteer, as is friendly conversation. Also, volunteers at Summit Thrift and Treasure gain valuable experience increasing their job skills that often help them get jobs in the community. Store vouchers are given to resource-center clients in need of assistance so they can purchase appliances, coats and other necessities for themselves and their families. For example, when individuals come to the agency in need of financial assistance, they frequently are provided a voucher to use in the store. Summit Thrift and Treasure offers a free English-as-a-second-language class throughout the year to all levels of students through a partnership with Colorado Mountain College. Summit Thrift and Treasure also collaborates with the general assistance office to plan and create other classes. Summit Thrift and Treasure always is seeking to expand its partnerships with individuals and organizations to enhance the quality of life in our community. Summit Thrift and Treasure proceeds support resource-center programs, providing a substantial amount of money to support the agencys programs.

About 60 hours per week are donated to Summit Thrift and Treasure by various community members. The number of volunteers changes with the seasons. In the summer, we may receive more than 100 hours per week of volunteer work. In the winter, it can drop to as little as 35 hours per week. Ideally, to keep costs down since the purpose of the store is to fund resource center programs wed like 200 hours per week of volunteer time. The proceeds earned help our general assistance office to help those with eviction and shutoff notices or medical bills, among other things. The more we can save on costs, the more we can help those in need.

Depending on the season, we could have more than 100,000 pounds of goods donated to the thrift store. A quarter of that is typically disposed of before reaching the sales floor because of condition (ripped, stained or dirty clothing or broken household items). During busy times of the year we can discard nearly 50,000 pounds of goods. A huge priority of the agency is to minimize waste. As such, we currently contract with a company out of Denver that purchases much of the unusable cloth goods from us for recycling or to send to developing countries. Also, we work closely with High Country Conservation Center, which is helping us divert as much of our waste as possible into recycling.

We run regular ads in the Summit Daily News featuring weekly sales ranging from 25 percent off everything to 50 percent off for seniors. We also feature Summit Thrift and Treasure on every episode of Kultural Kaleidoscope, which airs on the RSN cable channel daily between 12 and 12:30 p.m. In August the entire Kultural Kaleidoscope episode will highlight Summit Thrift and Treasure. We also generate publicity through word-of-mouth. We are currently listed in Names & Numbers and Yellow Book for easy contact.

We find in-store advertising is the best strategy, especially for 50 percent off sales, which means that we rely on returning customers. We rely on ads in the Summit Daily to reach those who do not regularly visit the store or have not previously heard of us.

One of the most exciting areas in which we are expanding is in the area of Internet sales. We frequently receive donations of books, antiques or other goods that are not appropriate for sale in the store. We post those items on e-Bay or other internet sales sites and are frequently able to generate significant revenue from them.To participate in High Country Business Reviews Q&A feature, e-mail smiller@vaildaily.com or knicoletti@summitdaily.com.

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