Living in the Wood River Valley might not be possible—or, at least, not as much fun—without the area’s many thrift stores. With the cost of living increasing every year, the demand for inexpensive wares, furniture, sporting goods, clothes, art and the millions of other items residents need is also increasing.
Luckily for us, one can typically find all these necessities and more at one of the Wood River Valley’s numerous thrift stores. What’s more, it would be difficult to find a resident of the area who has not benefited from the stores’ various nonprofit benefactors, such as The Community Library, Mountain Humane or The Advocates.
Over decades, The Gold Mine in Ketchum has been a staple of the Wood River Valley. Always filled to the brim with fascinating treasures, the store has been a testament to the area’s generosity since 1955—which, in turn, has been a boon for Ketchum’s Community Library, located a block away. In 2020-21, the thrift store generated more than $760,000 in support of the library and its programs.
Voted “Best Thrift Store” in this year’s Best of the Valley survey, The Gold Mine has even gained fame outside of Blaine County. In November 2021, Ski Magazine lauded the operation: “In Sun Valley, locals spread their passion evenly between powder and supporting the town’s literary heritage. Much of this support comes from The Gold Mine, a sixty-year-old thrift shop that uses 100% of its proceeds to fund cultural happenings at The Community Library.”
According to Craig Barry, the manager of The Gold Mine, the COVID pandemic took a toll on revenue generated for the library. But as things start to return to normalcy, The Gold Mine is returning to its peak performance.
“Coming out of this COVID period, we have seen our retail sales grow significantly,” he said. “We have received a host of interesting items from the community, and we are often pleasantly surprised with our community’s generosity in donating such incredible items.”
Barry added that along with the return of retail sales, the thrill of finding that bargain treasure is also on the rise.
“I think folks love that sense of treasure hunting,” Barry said. “You can see their enthusiasm as they casually shop and socialize with their family, friends and often other shoppers.
“The Gold Mine is truly a reflection of our community--the community’s generosity and our community’s love of the outdoor life and our local culture. [It] is a focal point for the community both with the community members who generously give their donations and the local and out-of-town shoppers who are shopping for basic necessities or discovering some jewel they never thought they needed.”
The Attic in Hailey also provides funds for a critical service in the valley: support for victims of sexual and domestic abuse through an organization called The Advocates. According to The Advocates, last fiscal year’s sales from The Attic netted over $190,000 to support victims of abuse in our community.
Lindy Stark, of The Advocates’ Attic, says that buying secondhand items is not only an affordable way to shop, but it also makes us reconsider how we consume fashion.
“Eighty-five percent of clothing in the U.S., including donations, ends up in incinerators or landfills,” Stark said. “Ninety-five percent of items that hit our landfills could be re-worn in their current form. The store also allows us to offer a unique opportunity to put nice and often new items into the hands of those less fortunate.”
According to Stark, the stigma of wearing and buying secondhand clothing is a relic of the past, and that the recent upswing of secondhand clothing has made thrifting “cool.” This assertion is backed up by Thrift World, an organization that partners with nonprofit thrifts all over the planet, which cited a study that showed from 2017 to 2019, secondhand sales increased by 37% in Millennial and 46% in Gen Z shoppers. These two generations are more likely to buy secondhand because they want to shop more sustainably and ethically.
“Finding a beautiful item that makes you feel good, you get a good deal while helping others and our planet is a win-win for all,” said Stark.
Mountain Humane, an animal shelter serving the Wood River Valley and beyond, also provides thrifty wares through The Barkin’ shop in Hailey. All of the proceeds from The Barkin’ go directly to funding Mountain Humane and its mission to serve homeless animals in the community. Mountain Humane is able to use these proceeds to enhance the lives of the shelter animals, which includes providing food and basic care. The organization also uses funds from The Barkin’ to fund adoptions.
From Sun Valley to Bellevue, the area is replete with quality thrift stores. Shopping at these establishments is a win-win for the residents of the Wood River Valley.
Next time you’re looking for furniture, décor, dishware, clothes or just about anything else, consider that the valley’s numerous thrift shops might just provide what you are looking for while benefiting others in the community.
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