Salvation Army Thrift Store closes

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 3, 2011

The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Bogalusa’s Pine Tree Plaza attracted a number of regular customers, many elderly and many needy, who stopped by weekly or even daily to check out the latest affordable offerings and to get a little social contact.

More than just a store that offered second-hand goods, and even more than one that also offered emergency assistance, the “Salvation Army” was a friendly, welcoming, neighborhood gathering space.

But now the space is changing.

As of Wednesday, June 1, what was officially a Salvation Army Service Center closed.

Store clerk Christie Miller, who was working on site that day, said the thrift store was reportedly not doing enough business to stay afloat. But in a 10-minute period early Wednesday while she spoke with The Daily News, about a dozen people disregarded the “Closed” sign, entered and shopped, apparently as usual.

Miller said she could not bear to make the people leave.

“I can’t do it,” she said as she opened the cash register.

Some of the customers had already signed a petition in support of keeping the store open.

Carol Voison approached the check-out counter with her arms full of clothing and other items.

“I’m a grandmother raising my grandchildren,” she said. “It’s hard enough to survive, and now they’re going to shut down the only place I can afford to shop.

“I really wish they could keep it open. The next closest one is in Covington? Who can afford the gas to go to Covington? Gas is ridiculous…Life is hard and it’s just getting harder every day.”

Miller said people depend on the store, which moved to Pine Tree Plaza from a longtime location on Columbia Street in late 2005.

“We have regular customers and new faces every day,” she said. “If this store closes, it’s going to hurt the community. Definitely. A lot of people can’t afford to go to another store.

“We also do emergency assistance like help people with their utilities or if they are burned out of their homes. You can’t just let that go.”

Miller said she did not know how many names she had gathered on her petitions, but the pages easily available showed probably more than 100 signatures.

Regardless, the issue might already be decided. Manager Brenda Kates could not be reached for comment at her McComb, Miss. office Wednesday. But it is widely known that the Bogalusa Service Center has struggled for years, and even without an expectation of profit, the expenses of rent, utilities and a couple of salaries must be met in order for it to remain open.

Still, Miller will not give up hope. She urges everyone to call Kates at 601-249-0131 or Captain J. Richards at 601-969-7560 to tell them how important the Bogalusa center is to the community.

“Closing this store would hurt so many people,” she said. “It’s just not possible.”