Home2019-2020Issue 12Closing of Salem shopping staple surprises employees and customers

Closing of Salem shopping staple surprises employees and customers

Noah Dantes, Managing Editor

After more than 30 years of business, Salem’s Value Village closed last Saturday, Nov. 16 after its property lease expired. Salem Health is now leasing the property. The store offered a 20 percent discount to Willamette students, a wide and unique variety of clothes, supported local charities and accepted donations of used clothes, making it a popular shopping spot for both the campus and broader Salem community.

While the store was a community staple, it was part of a chain of over 300 Value Villages all owned by Savers, the largest for-profit thrift retailer in the world.

The Salem location closed “due to an expiring lease agreement,” Savers spokeswoman Sara Gaugl said in an interview with the Statesman Journal. Gaugl did not specify as to why the lease was not renewed. 

According to the Statesman Journal, Salem Health is now leasing the property, which includes the next-door closed Kmart store. The hospital is currently undergoing renovations to account for Salem’s growing population and the construction is expected to limit visitor parking at the hospital. The property, though located a five minute drive away, will serve as an additional parking lot to accommodate demand. A shuttle will be provided by Salem Health to take people back and forth between the parking lot and the hospital.

Gaugl did not rule out a potential relocation: “Thrift shopping continues to build momentum and we’re always looking for potential locations that meet our real estate requirements.”

However, a Value Village employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that there are no plans to relocate the Salem store. Additionally, no employee knew it was closing until Nov. 5. All of the store’s supplies are being shipped to the Tigard location, the last Value Village in Oregon. Savers usually relocates its workers when a store closes, which the employee confirmed is happening for the Salem location, but the move could prove challenging for some employees given the distance to Tigard.

Other locations are also being closed down. Seattle’s last Value Village closed on Nov. 16, also due to an expired lease. Another location in the Puget Sound area closed earlier this year.

The Salem location was a popular shopping spot for many Willamette students. Dawn-Hunter Strobel (‘20) said, “Three-quarters of my wardrobe is from Value Village. It’s the only place I shop in Salem.”

Riley Burton (‘20) had a similar sentiment: “Everything I’m wearing right now is from Value Village. You’d come in and get cheap clothes, but you’d also go there for the looks.”

The closing of the store came as a shock to both Burton and Strobel. Burton learned it was closing when he walked in and found several of his favorite racks missing on Nov. 6. After asking an employee, he discovered that the store would be closing 10 days later.

The store was known for its low prices and wide, eccentric variety of clothes. “I once picked up an Ichiro [Suzuki] jersey there—it has a market value of 150 dollars and I got it for seven,” Burton said. 

“Having thrift shops is a really vital resource for low-income folks,” Burton said. “Salem’s kind of run out of retail shops. Nordstrom closed, Macy’s closed, Sears is gone. Kmart closed my first year at Willamette. Now Value Village is gone too… If Value Village had closed earlier, I would have highly considered transferring.” 

Value Village was also known for its Halloween sales and the additional special items it offered during the season. Strobel recalled the Halloween season two years ago: “I went as the sun for Halloween and my friend dressed up as the moon. We had no concept of how we were going to dress but we found it at Value Village. [My costume] was very abstract: a gold jumpsuit and a wig.”

Burton shared a similar Halloween story: “My friend and I went in and found some Bob Ross shirts. My friend found an all-white outfit and I painted him for Halloween to make a low budget costume that way.” 

When asked, neither Burton or Strobel knew where they would shop now that Value Village is gone. Both said that Value Village had the best prices in Salem and sold unique clothes that aren’t found elsewhere.

“I think it’s a big blow to Salem in general,” Strobel said. “I could always go in and find way more than I could ever use… it was fun and cheap. You never wasted your time with Value Village.” 

Burton agreed: “It was a solid staple that complimented the Willamette community very well. We are a pretty weird school and Value Village was a pretty weird store. I’m really sad to see it go.”

ngdantes@willamette.edu

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