(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
The Salvation Army of Cape Girardeau will close its thrift store on Morgan Oak Street today and look for a new place to do business.
"We've been at that location for eight years," said Major Ben Stillwell, corps officer of the local Salvation Army. "It's been our pleasure to bring merchandise to people at a great price. But, rather than continue with what is a losing proposition, we believe we're doing the right thing in closing the store."
Stillwell said the business climate along Morgan Oak has changed in the last few years. Several businesses have closed, and what is left isn't enough of a reason for potential shoppers to make the trip to the thrift store.
"There's not any economic anchors left," Stillwell said. "There used to be several places along Morgan Oak that could attract traffic. People would buy things at those stores and, while they were at it, visit the thrift store and look over what we had. But that's just not happening anymore. What we have now on Morgan Oak is a gas station on the corner and another one across the street. They just don't generate the traffic we need."
Because the location isn't convenient for potential clientele, it follows that business at the thrift store has been less than exceptional.
"Our duty at the Salvation Army demands we do the most good," Stillwell said. "We can't do that at a location that isn't even breaking even, and that hasn't happened over the last year to 18 months. We have to be able to pay rent and pay our employees."
The plight of the thrift store in Cape Girardeau contrasts to the thrift store in Jackson that Stillwell also oversees. The thrift store there, he said, is exceeding expectations.
"The store in Jackson isn't just doing well, it's doing terrific," he said. "It's located on East Jackson Boulevard in a shopping plaza, and that brings out the traffic."
Salvation Army officials did not have revenue figures for the local thrift store immediately available Thursday afternoon.
Stillwell is committed to doing the most good for the part-time employees of the Cape Girardeau store.
"I don't want to see anyone out of a job," he said. "We have two wonderful part-timers, and they will be placed in rotation at the Jackson store so they can keep working."
Mary Miller has been working at the Morgan Oak location for four years.
"I'm looking forward to keeping my job," she said. "I won't mind working in Jackson at all, but since I live near the store I'll miss being able to work locally."
Miller believes the Cape store's location has been detrimental to attracting customers.
"When people hear we're located on Morgan Oak, they don't want to come and look for the bargains we have. I don't know if they don't feel safe or what, but I do know the traffic we've been getting isn't cutting it."
As for prospective sites, Stillwell is looking for a combination of the right amount of square footage at the right price, but that has been difficult to find. A building on Old Bloomfield Road wasn't large enough, and another on South Kingshighway was too expensive.
"Finding the right building at the right price is tough no matter what business you're in," Stillwell said. "Even though it would be nice, we're not set on a prime location for the new store. The goal is a location that's a little better than the old one."
Stillwell has not set a time frame for opening the next Salvation Army thrift store, but he hopes it will be by the first of the year.
"It's been a real challenge, but we believe with the support the community gives us, it's just a matter of time."
The Salvation Army of Cape Girardeau will receive donations intended for the local thrift store at its headquarters and community center at 701 Good Hope St. Pickups of donations can be arranged by calling 335-7000. Donated items will be offered for sale in the Jackson thrift store until a new Cape Girardeau location is established.
416 Morgan Oak St., Cape Girardeau, MO
701 Good Hope St., Cape Girardeau, MO