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Vote Now: Do You Support the Million-Dollar Madison Thrift Store Proposal?

Following some hard blog coverage, lots of strong online feedback, and even criticism in the local press, Madison's community thrift store steering committee is waging the full-court press to sell their million-dollar project. Committee members Clark Sinclair, Jerry Johnson, and others are hitting KJAM and the Madison Daily Leader to tell us why we need to lock up our common wealth in their charitable brainstorm.

Of course, Clark Sinclair says this project will not move forward if the community does not support it. So let's find out, community: do you support it? Vote now in the latest Madville Times poll! The specific question:

Do you support spending $1,050,000 in public and private dollars to build a thrift store in Madison?

That dollar figure is the $150,000 in tax dollars the committee wants from the city to cover the cost of acquiring two Main Street buildings and demolishing them along with the old Jensen building that the LAIC already owns, plus the $900,000 the committee plans to get from private donations and the LAIC's Forward Madison II pot. That dollar figure does not include the ongoing subsidy the committee seeks from the Lake County Commission.

Vote now at the top of the right sidebar here. Poll is open until breakfast time Friday, June 15, at which point we'll discuss the results and send them to the thrift store steering committee, the city commission, and the county commission.

As always, I welcome your thoughts here in the comment section. Sinclair, Johnson, et al. haven't figured out yet how to use the Web for community conversation, but they do have an e-mail address where they say you can send them questions:

They're asking for your input, community: vote now, and make your voices heard!


  1. Kathy Tyler 2012.06.12

    Milbank has an outstanding thrift store and a consignment store. The thrift store is run by the Christian Service Council, a volunteer organization. It donates thousands of dollars back to the community each year. It bought an empty store front on Main Street, and people are lined up when it opens each Wednesday for the week. No taxes were used! The community support is overwhelming.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.12

    Kathy, I've heard about this store! Do they have a website? How big is the building they acquired? What are its hours? What's their inventory look like, and where does it come from? Why did they go with an empty store front instead of a new building?

  3. Linda 2012.06.12

    A few questions about Milbank's store. Is that the only thrift store in town? How much was paid for the empty store front as start-up costs? How much does it cost to run it? If the building was acquired for very little, the help is all volunteer, and it's the only store in town, this is a very different scenario from the proposal in Madison.

    One other point about the current proposal that I don't know if has been brought up. Right now the hair salon and bar are paying property taxes. Will this new thrift store be nonprofit and thus exempt from property taxes? How much profit would the thrift store have to generate to make up for the loss in property taxes?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.12

    Linda, I don't for sure have the answer to the cost questions, but check out the 990 tax forms for the Christian Service Council of Grant County, the outfit that runs the Milbank community thrift store. From 2007 to 2010, I find average revenues of $71K, with 2010 revenues just about $110K. That may be the net revenue they have left after paying the bills... but I'm not able to tell from the form if that's all money from the store or if it includes other fundraising.

    The 2010 990 form also indicates Christian Service Council owns a building worth $45K. I will continue to research to see if that's the thrift store itself.

  5. The word on the street is that Sweet Escape Salon will have a new home in a few weeks. Both buildings will be empty soon.

    If you think public opinion is going to stop this project, we better start a movement, because there are already many things in motion behind the scenes.

    There are places in this state that support both a thrift store (Goodwill, etc.) and also second hand and antique stores. I am not sure that it will replace all of those businesses. I do think it COULD hurt their profits and maybe close a few. However, I think Facebook's very popular Recycle Path group in Madison is already doing that. Heck, my wife and I made $40.00 doing direct sales on Recycle Path this week. No second hand store for us in between taking a cut of the profit.

    I also agree that this would be a good way to help fund community projects and help ICAP. However, the startup costs seem huge and I think it would take a long time to start making money. This would be better than spending $250,000 on the Golf Course, but again, the City already gives a lot of money for economic development through the LAIC, Chamber, and kick-backs like Custom Touch.

    Now, maybe we as a town should find a way to raise our wages and actually pay people a living wage so we don't need second hand stores and thrift stores. As Cory pointed out months ago, Lake County's median wage lags way behind our neighbors. What does it say about our community when we have to build a 1 Million dollar THRIFT STORE and label it ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT?? This is not economic development, this is subsiding the low wage paying companies in our town, plain and simple.

    I believe in this from a public good and charity perspective, but to say that it is economic development is half-baked at best.

    This is a very complicated and messy issue for sure. I hope they find a way to do this on a trial basis for 6 months in an existing property before making a $1,000,000 dollar commitment. Nobody wants to see someone lose their business because of a public non-profit entity competing with the private sector. However, these second hand stores are not meeting all of the needs in our community. Something needs to be done, like others, I am just not sure this is the best path forward.

  6. That should be *this is **subsidizing** the low wage paying companies in our town, plain and simple.

    Subsidizing I say.. Subsidizing!

  7. Kathy Tyler 2012.06.12

    The building they are in is the former Penney's store. It's a two story building of decent size...typical main street store. Inventory is very,housewares, books, etc. It's inventory is donations..good donations--no junk or really dirty clothing allowed. I don't know where the funds came from to purchase the building;maybe it's even rented. I would have to do some checking. It's closed Monday and Tuesday for stocking, etc. It's very clean, inviting, and very well run. It has excellent support from the community.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.12

    Two stories? Hmm... the Madison committee says a multi-level building (like the vacant three-floor main street store committee member Clark Sinclair owns) won't work. Does the Milbank store have sales display on just the main floor? (I clearly need to come up to Milbank and shoot some video!)

  9. Eve Fisher 2012.06.12

    Absolutely opposed to the thrift store idea, and absolutely pro another grocery store - for those who think Madison can't support more than one grocery store, Madison did just fine until Mr. Roeman bought both grocery stores, shut one down, and created a monopoly. So... let's work on that.

  10. Kathy Tyler 2012.06.12

    The Milbank store has displays on most of the first floor; the back is for deliveries. The second floor is just half a floor, and I'm sure there are displays there also. You're making me think!

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.13

    Kathy, that store sounds like its layout resembles the layout of the old furniture store we have vacant downtown that could house our thrift store. (And making folks think is my whole purpose! :-) )

  12. Heather 2012.06.13

    This is just a thought. I would love to see the old Radio Shack store for this maybe the upgrades to use all 3 floors would cost a lot. Due to ADA rules.
    I would love to see all of Madison's downtown stores filled. Do we need more in Madison for people to shop? Yes!
    I have friends that come to Madison and shop at the Four Seasons they wish they had more places like that to shop here.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.06.13

    That's not a bad thought, Heather. We want accessibility for everyone. But ADA rules didn't stop the Milbank folks from repurposing their old Penney's, (see Kathy's comment above).

    We all share the vision of seeing a vibrant Main Street with lots of active stores giving locals a reason to stay and visitors a reason to make the trip. The thrift store is a nice idea for meeting some charitable needs (although I think we need to discuss the extent to which those needs are already being met by existing programs), but it does not meet our bigger economic development needs.

    Think bigger. Think synergy. A thrift store doesn't really synergize with any other moneymaker in town. What kind of store would get people to shop there and elsewhere, and then stop for a big lunch or a couple fancy coffees at Mochavino, our shining beacon of new Main Street entrepreneurship?

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