Almost a month after a fire destroyed the entire inventory of the PTO Thrift Shop on State Street, the cause of the fire remains unknown. But this hasn’t stopped community members from moving forward in efforts to reestablish the local favorite.

Angela Cesere
LEFT: The S. Industrial location where donations are accepted. RIGHT: The remains of the PTO thrift shop. (ANGELA CESERE/Daily)

While preparing for the opening of the new building, located at 2280 S. Industrial Highway, employees and local residents are working to replenish the lost inventory.

“We have had a ton of people donating things, from clothing to household items,” two-year employee Grace Logan said. “People from all over have been helping out.”

Local businesses, including Meijer, the Ann Arbor Recycling Center and Peaceable Kingdom, donated clothing racks and display cases.

Employees are also trying to refurbish the store with essential items.

“We have enough to open our new store,” Logan said. “We’re still working on getting racks to hang the clothes, garbage bags and a credit card machine to be able to run the store. As far as inventory, I think we’re doing pretty well.”

Although the store has received many donations from the community, the store’s owners are paying $5,000 a month for its temporary space at 2275 S. Industrial Highway.

Nancy-Lynn Sharpless, president of the store’s board of directors, obtained the location 18 hours after the fire.

Employees said they hope to move into the new building prior to the official opening date, scheduled for June 1.

To expand the store, the board of directors signed a contract for the new location in March, more than a month before the fire, Sharpless said.

Many employees expressed optimism about the appearance of the new store, which provides 2,000 square feet more space than the last building.

“The new building is so much nicer than other buildings we’ve had,” said two-year employee Rudi Thornburgh.

“It used be Pino’s Marbles. They left us many nice things in there such as the marble floor, Greek columns and marble countertops.”

The nonprofit store is considered to be an integral part of the community.

Michelle Sawyer, a 36-year-old local resident, has been a loyal customer of the shop, purchasing items such as antiques and furniture.

“It’s kind of a tradition,” Sawyer said. “That’s usually the first stop (for thrift-shop customers) because it’s the best.”

For Sawyer, the thrift shop is more than just a store.

“It’s a social gathering place for like-minded people who like to hang out and talk and collect junk,” she said. “It serves as a good place for college students and people who don’t have a lot of money.”

PTO’s employees – consisting of students from local middle and high schools and their parents – earn between $7 and $8 an hour, depending on the store’s earnings.

Students sign up to fund certain projects, such as field trips for band and chorus members or sports events, using their incomes from the shop.

Since it was founded nearly 11 years ago, the shop has moved five times. Previous locations include Tappan Middle School and the current location of the Salvation Army on Arbana Drive.

At the new location, the owners plan to open the store at 9 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.

The store’s insurance company and fire inspectors have been investigating the cause of the fire, which began in the store’s back room.

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