"The main reason we're closing is economic reasons," said Salvation Army Maj. Nancy Fuller, referring to The Salvation Army Family Store and Social Services building. "We're just making ends meet barely. The idea of the family store is to raise money to be used in the community in our social services and we just haven't been able to do that. At the end of the month, we just have made the payroll and the rent and the utilities. So that whole idea of why we have a family store is just not working for us.
"When we first started, it was doing good. Then the economy plummeted. You would think the opposite. You would really think if the economy is bad, people would want to come more to The Salvation Army and shop, but it was just the opposite for some reason. We really just have not had the funds or the money. We've had [$200] and $300 days in that store."
Since November 2007, The Salvation Army's thrift store, food pantry and social services have been based at the Apex Drive site. With the total space increasing in size from 5,300 square feet to 8,100 square feet, the thrift store's storage area multiplied at least five times and the food pantry's capacity tripled. The move also enabled The Salvation Army to renovate the previous thrift store space for its church, which had been operating in a nearby modular building.
While the added space has been a blessing, in recent years the thrift store's revenue was unable to keep pace with the building's expenses, she said. With the final instruction coming from the nonprofit's divisional headquarters, Fuller and her husband, John, stressed that suspending the store's operations was a difficult decision to make.
"The unemployment rate is still high in Cartersville, and when people can't even find part-time positions, they simply cannot ... afford the reasonable prices the family store offers them. ... While the temporary store closing may be inconvenient for our clients, this interim period will present us a welcomed opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of our stakeholders and explore more cost effective solutions," said Maj. John Fuller in a news release. "We are pleased to report that our ministries of providing rent and utility assistance, food assistance, disaster relief services, character-building programs for youth and worship services will not be affected."
While the thrift store's sales were not able to sustain The Salvation Army's social services, the program still received funding from the nonprofit's mail appeals, United Way of Bartow County, a Georgia Power offering and the Red Kettle campaign, which raised $39,500 over the holidays. In 2011, the organization's social services program assisted 3,055 individuals with food and funds for utility bills, medications and rent.
Leading up to its closing, the price of the thrift store's items, ranging from clothing to home furnishings, will be sizably reduced. All of the goods currently are marked down 50 percent. Open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the store will stop receiving donations from the public on Saturday, Jan. 7, at 5 p.m. After this month, the remaining items will potentially be absorbed by Rome's Salvation Army.
Among the organization's restructuring, the Cartersville Corps also will be welcoming new leaders this month. Based on the existing needs of Georgia's communities, the nonprofit's divisional headquarters in Norcross has appointed the Fullers as the new corps officers for the Atlanta International Corps in Doraville. Their last day with the Cartersville Corps will be Jan. 22, with Lts. Lee and Michelle Wilson succeeding them at the end of the month.
"We're hoping that [the store is] just going to be a temporary closing but there's no guarantee," Nancy Fuller said. "It all depends on what the new lieutenants see and feel when they get here and what headquarters supports them to do. There's just no guarantee if it's going to be six months, a year, 18 months.
"We just don't have [a] clue as to how long it will be closed. But that's not a permanent thing. It's going to be reopened because we still generate plenty of giving in this community, people donating. We don't do pickups. Most everything comes in from just people dropping it off so that's amazing in itself."
For more information about The Salvation Army's programs and services, call 770-387-9955.