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Potsdam Humane Society to close charity thrift shop

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POTSDAM — The Best Friends Thrift Shop, 8 Raymond St., which was created more than three years ago to benefit the Potsdam Humane Society, will be closing for good March 3.

The closure comes after a failed attempt to transfer control of the store from owners Timothy M. and Cathy L. Connolly to the Humane Society.

The Connollys opened the shop in 2010. All of its profits, after the bills and employees had been paid, benefited the Humane Society, which was not responsible for the store’s operation or expenses.

As time went on, Mr. Connolly said, he realized the store was taking up more of his work time than he originally anticipated. The couple also owns a flea market in Potsdam, and after they opened a second location in Canton last year, the workload became too much to handle.

“I found that I was putting a lot more time in there than I thought,” he said.

At the end of October, Mr. Connolly proposed a new business model to the Humane Society. He proposed the society take control of the store, and staff it entirely with volunteers. He offered to volunteer some of his time, and train others on how to run the store, he said.

According to Mr. Connolly, by switching to volunteer labor, the store would make enough to pay its bills and still bring in money for the shelter.

After months of deliberation, the Humane Society board declined.

The Humane Society is in the animal care business, not the thrift store business, society President Carrie H. Tuttle said.

In 2013, the society received $6,329 from the shop. The sum was helpful, Ms. Tuttle said, but once the financial responsibility and risk were shifted to the society, it was too great a challenge to take on.

“We have no one who has volunteered to manage the store. This was a business that was run by people who know how to run a thrift store,” she said.

The Humane Society is in tight financial straits, and taking on additional responsibilities with a lack of volunteers was unrealistic, she said.

“Right now we’re barely breaking even,” she said.

The shelter has been looking for volunteers for the past few months, she said, and not enough have stepped up to adequately staff the store.

Mr. Connolly said he is frustrated the society took so long to act on his proposal. He pitched the idea in late October, he said, and did not meet with anyone to discuss the details until December. Since then, there has not been enough effort to recruit volunteers, he said.

“From my perspective nothing was done, and then it was the middle of January, and nothing was done,” he said.

He recruited some volunteers on his own. It was not many, but enough to get things started, he said.

Then, on Thursday, the Humane Society informed him of its plan to close the store.

“I had enough that we were going to be able to start, and we were going to be able to proceed and build. I really don’t understand why what happened happened. I only found out about it yesterday,” he said.

The store will spend this week selling off as much of its inventory as it can. On March 4, any remaining inventory will be given away for free.

Ms. Tuttle said the idea of a revival is not out of the question. If the shelter can gather enough volunteers, and find a store owner who would be willing to donate space to operate the store, it is possible the Best Friends Thrift Shop could come back someday.

“We can’t thank Tim and Cathy enough for all they’ve done for the shelter,” she said, praising the couple for pioneering an effective fundraising method.

“I am hopeful that this model could move forward,” she said.

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