The Salvation Army Thrift Store on September 12, 2023. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
When the Salvation Army’s staff returned to Yellowknife as the city’s evacuation order lifted, their first priority was getting the organization’s shelter up and running.
Only two days later, said executive director Tony Brushett, was anyone able to check on the Salvation Army Thrift Store. When they did, they discovered water damage everywhere.
“It was kind-of a shock when I walked in,” he said.
Brushett told Cabin Radio he still isn’t entirely sure what caused the flooding, which came down from the third floor of the building. He said the evidence suggests it occurred in the early days of the evacuation from Yellowknife.
The Thrift Store’s floors and ceilings now need to be replaced, Brushett said, and the flooding also damaged two apartment units the Salvation Army uses as transitional housing.
“What I thought was going to be a quick couple of weeks and some floor tiles and ceiling tiles is going to be a lot more than that now,” he said.
Brushett is waiting to hear how long repairs will take and how much they will cost. He expects the bill to be at least $50,000, most of which he said will likely be covered by insurance.
What won’t be covered, however, is the potential revenue the Salvation Army will lose from having to close the store – and throw away most of the inventory inside, which Brushett said had been sitting in water for weeks. He estimates 1,500 to 2,000 pieces of clothing were lost.
“It is a huge revenue generator,” he said, describing income of roughly $40,000 a month in sales.
“All the profits from the Thrift Store go into my food bank and into Christmas hampers. So the longer I’m shut down, the more money that we’re losing through that piece as well.”
In the first four days since the Salvation Army’s food bank reopened following the three-week evacuation, usage is more than double the normal level, Brushett said. Twenty to 30 families usually use the food bank each week, but from Thursday to Monday, around 70 families accessed the service.
People can still donate clothing and goods to the Thrift Store in bins outside the building. Staff remain on site.
“It just bothers me that some of the folks who are coming to the store to shop, probably in a lot of cases, are looking for school clothes for your children and that type of thing,” he said.
“Now, they’re almost forced to go to the retail stores and pay retail price.”