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Municipally-owned Nu2U thrift store in Olds to close permanently

Increasing competition, poorer quality donations and other factors have forced the closure of an Olds thrift store owned by the municipality
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Linda Leibel, far left, buys some "crafty stuff" at Nu2U from volunteers Darlene Henry, centre, and Diane Koch, far right in 2020. File photo/MVP Staff

OLDS — Nu2U, the municipally-owned thrift store is closing permanently, due to a number of factors, including increasing competition, poorer quality donations, declining income, and retirement of one volunteer that led to more work for town staff. 

“This is a difficult decision, it was made for several reasons, but primarily because Nu2U costs more to operate than it generates in annual revenue for the community,” a Town of Olds news release, issued Dec. 5 said. 

The last day of regular operation for the store will be Dec. 22. A final clearance sale of merchandise will be held in the new year. 

Dates for remaining stock liquidation will be posted on the town website (www.olds.ca/nu2u) and social media channels. 

An event to recognize Nu2U volunteers and staff will be held in February. 

Doug Wagstaff, the Town of Olds director of community services, told council today that he met with Nu2U staff and volunteers before the council presentation on Dec. 5 to give them the sad news first. 

The town will look for a way to replace the funding that Nu2U used to provide to the community through other community grants. 

“Other budgeted sources can contribute to supporting grants to community groups,” the release said. 

The store has existed for 12 years and had been under the town’s umbrella since 2010.  

That too is part of the rationale for closing it.  

“Operating such an enterprise that competes with local businesses is not an ideal function of local government,” the release said.  

“A social enterprise thrift store is outside the typical realm of municipal government.” 

In a presentation to council on Dec. 5, community services director Doug Wagstaff said when Nu2U first opened, there were only two thrift stores in Olds. Now there are several privately-owned ones as well, some of which pick up merchandise from consignors. 

Wagstaff noted another factor in the decision is that previously, a volunteer used to take care of snow removal, waste removal, and building maintenance, but has since retired. 

 Over the years, those responsibilities shifted to Town of Olds staff and that took them away from other duties they’d normally be doing. 

Since it became a municipally-owned entity, in 2010, Nu2U grants obtained from Nu2U operations have provided $332,421 to a wide variety of community groups. 

“Grant opportunities will continue to exist to support active lifestyles, health and wellness initiatives of programs and services that cannot to be funded by Family and Community Support Services (FCSS),” the release said.

Further details about community grant opportunities will be released this spring. 

During the Dec. 5 council presentation and in the news release, Town of Olds Mayor Judy Dahl expressed sadness about the Nu2U decision and praised the work of its staff and many volunteers over the years. 

“We understand Nu2U was a labour of love for the volunteers at the thrift store and it is with a heavy heart that we make this decision to close the operation," she said in the release. 

“To the staff members and especially the many volunteers, we thank you for your service and dedication over the years.”