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After closing, future of Best Friends Thrift Shop uncertain

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POTSDAM — The Best Friends Thrift Shop, 8 Raymond St., might have a chance at a comeback after closing last week.

Two members of the Potsdam Humane Society have less than two weeks to come up with a viable business plan to keep the doors open.

Owners Timothy M. and Cathy L. Connolly opened the shop in 2010. All of the profits were donated to the Humane Society.

Last year, the Connollys became too busy to keep running the store. However, they wanted to see it continue and offered to turn over control to the society.

They proposed a new business model: the store could be run entirely by volunteers under the Humane Society’s supervision and continue to turn a profit.

After several months of deliberation, the Humane Society board voted to shut down the store, worried that the agency could not shoulder the financial responsibility and risk that would come with running the business.

Only one board member, Bonnie S. Boyd, voted against the decision. Now, she is working with Humane Society volunteer Hilary M. Oak to figure out how to keep the store going.

The Humane Society board agreed to give the pair until the March 18 board meeting to come up with a business plan.

“So that’s what we are doing,” Ms. Boyd said. “We are trying to work up a business plan, and also getting legal counsel on what are the proper things to do for a 501(c)(3) to take over an endeavour.”

Ms. Boyd said she does not want to see the Humane Society give up a stable source of revenue. The shop donated $6,329 to the agency in 2013.

“It’s already tried and true. It does crank out a profit. I think we could do even better,” she said. “The bottom line is money, and we need it.”

One of the difficulties is establishing how a nonprofit organization such as the Humane Society can manage a commercial enterprise like a thrift shop. This should not be too difficult, Ms. Boyd said.

“We just want to make sure we have all of our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed,” she said.

Ms. Oak said she is confident the board can be convinced, saying the original decision to close the store was based mostly on a lack of information.

“They didn’t have a full plan of how to move forward,” she said.

In order to reopen the store, the Humane Society will have to recruit enough volunteers to run it in time for its proposed reopening April 1.

“We’re working our tails off to do that,” Ms. Boyd said.

Initial efforts to recruit volunteers came up short, but Ms. Oak said this is because a concerted effort to find workers did not start until it was too late.

“I don’t think the word went out far enough in advance,” she said.

The board will decide whether to keep the store open at the March 18 meeting.

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