March 23, 2018
Writer: Dale Spaulding
It’s hard to imagine Eastern-Idaho without Deseret Industries. The thrift store started eight decades this year! With the relocation of the Idaho Falls DI building, BYU-Idaho radio toured the new Ammon building, which includes twice the floor space than the previous location.
The New Building
Marketing manager for DI Brooke Yates, and store manager Aaron Kelley showed us around. They mentioned the new building has 25-thousand square feet on their sales floor.
During our press tour, Yates said every day is like a treasure hunt at the DI. We stopped to talk about donated shirts and ties, brand new suits that the di orders in, and then passed to the yard area.
“Look at these golf clubs,” Yates points out a golf club set during our tour, with each club costing “two dollars right here!”
I asked Yates about why DI would move from their old downtown Idaho Falls location. Yates says “Our building was getting old, in Idaho Falls, and so we wanted to provide a larger building where we can serve more people.”
The donation docks are also a huge improvement, according to Yates, with larger vehicles nearly unable to pass through the bay at the old location.
The old building and its property will be owned and maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though plans for the building’s future were not shared. The grand opening of the new DI was Thursday, March 22nd at 2885 e 17th St in Ammon.
The new Deseret Industries in Ammon is different than a regular tour of another building. This tour included stories, stories about people and how their jobs at DI have changed them. Yates says,
“I have a story about a customer; their, their (sic) roof had collapsed, and they needed a new roof and new shingles, so they were able to get the roof up, but they couldn’t afford shingles for their roof. And so, they … couldn’t live in their home at the moment. They actually came to Deseret Industries, and the walked back in [the yard area], and they found boxes of brand new shingles that someone had donated.”
She also shared stories of associates who joined after losing jobs, when they decided to kick a drug habit, and one associate who worked as a policeman before a semi hit him on the highway. The officer returned to the force after working at the DI in his recovery time.
Yates adds, “I’ve had an associate who was 92 years old, she had been retired, and she wanted to do something else with her life.”
DI is so much more than a thrift store. Its mission goes far beyond selling used items. Yates says DI “exists to help people become self-reliant.”
“… the only reason why we have our thrift stores here is so we can provide an environment for our work associates can participate in a job training program.”
Deseret Industries has licensed clinical social workers who work with the associates as they come on to the team. Store manager Aaron Kelley says there are social challenges that associates bring to their work, as much as any physical or mental limitation. “Sometimes a supervisor talks to you, and instead of saying ‘oh, ok, I’ll get right on that,’ they go, ‘huh, yeah, whatever.’”
You can learn more about the career opportunities with DI at https://www.deseretindustries.org/stories?lang=eng
Before opening day, Yates says the associates are prepared, even after she compared opening day to Black Friday.
“We literally have stocked items ready to switch out as soon as items sell. So, we have semi-trailers in the parking lot full of product that’s already been priced, sorted and everything…”
As the crew at di has prepared for the grand opening, it’s interesting to see large cardboard boxes, five feet tall, wide and deep, filled with consumer goods. Yates explains:
“We have these big boxes, we call them gaylords, and they house so much product, they help us ship product on semis in between stores… [W]e have a donation sharing program where, those stores that get excess, we can put in these gaylords and ship out to the other stores so that we can always kind of support each other.”
DI has 43 stores nationwide, including a manufacturing plant in Salt Lake City, which supplies goods to all di store locations.
“It functions just like a Deseret Industries store, where we have associates who are learning skills in a store, their learning how to merchandise, their learning how to hang clothes, how to check electronics, how to sort books… at our manufacturing plant they learn how to build solid wood furniture, and build mattresses, and build pillows, and that kind of stuff.”
With all of this preparation, it’s fun to see ‘behind the scenes,’ and find some pretty interesting things along the way... we even found a bathtub in the back room!
The new Ammon DI is open for business. To listen to our other stories about the new store, check out our SoundCloud.