Listen temporarily closes two thrift stores in Vermont

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/18/2021 7:50:59 PM
Modified: 1/18/2021 7:50:57 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Listen Community Services has temporarily closed its two Vermont stores at least through February due to declining revenues, fewer shoppers and staffing challenges, according to the nonprofit’s executive director.

The nonprofit’s two New Hampshire stores in Canaan and Lebanon remain open, according to a Friday post on Listen’s Facebook page.

The now-closed White River Junction stores include a thrift store on Maple Street and a furniture store on North Main Street. The organization’s nightly community dinner continues to be served at its Maple Street location.

It also recently opened a warming station, Warm Hands, in collaboration with the Upper Valley Haven at the Maple Street location, near the Route 4 bridge leading to West Lebanon.

“We have had declining revenues and customer counts at the two Vermont locations to the extent where it no longer makes sense to keep them open,” Executive Director Kyle Fisher said in a Friday email.

In addition, Fisher said the nonprofit has had trouble keeping the stores properly staffed due to “a variety of issues.”

Fisher said that demand for Listen’s programs is growing, “so this hurts to have that income stream greatly limited and needing to be shutting those locations down. But we certainly can’t afford to run them at a loss with the needs in our community right now.”

The nonprofit relies on its stores for 25% of the income it needs to run its programs, which in addition to the dinners and Warm Hands include a Lebanon food pantry, as well as housing and heating support.

Laurel Stavis, chairwoman of Listen’s board, said the thrift stores generally experience a dip in traffic in January and that, combined with pandemic-related challenges, forced the “short-term, temporary” closures.

She said the pandemic has driven up demand for Listen’s community dinners more than 100% over last year and demand for the food pantry is up 40%.

Listen’s leaders “have to make these management decisions based on how we can continue providing the services the community needs,” she said.

Some Vermont shoppers reacted with sadness to the news of the store closings on social media.

“Listen is a wonderful organization and I like going to the White River store,” said Quechee resident Juanita Paynter, in response to a post about the closings on Listen’s Facebook page. “I am trying to avoid going to New Hampshire any more then necessary.”

Paynter told the Valley News that she relied on Listen thrift stores for clothing and furniture when her children were young. Now that they are grown and she is on a fixed income, Paynter said she still looks for bargains at Listen thrift stores.

“It saves so much money,” she said via Facebook Messenger. “Especially when things are tight.”

North Springfield, Vt., resident Pamela Kissell said that she had planned to visit the White River Junction thrift store on Saturday until she saw that the store had closed. As a food service worker at Bellows Falls Union High School, Kissell said she has to fill out a daily questionnaire that includes a question about whether she’s been out of state and for what reason as part of COVID-19 screening, which she said prevents her from shopping at Listen’s New Hampshire stores.

“The closing of the WRJ Listen stores I think will have a negative impact on the Vermont customers who shop there,” Kissell said. “They carry a wide variety of items at very low prices. In the current economy these thrift stores are vital.”

Vermont currently limits cross-border trips to “essential travel” which includes commuting to a job or school, seeking medical care and shopping for food, beverages or medicine.

In late February, Listen’s leaders will reevaluate the decision to close the Vermont stores, Fisher said. Stavis said she expects the stores will reopen by springtime.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.




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