News

Room for Deseret in FWay

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

A Mormon church-owned thrift store will soon open in Federal Way, but with more in mind than selling used merchandise.

Deseret Industries will make its debut here June 3 at 2200 S. 320th St., just north of SeaTac Mall and in space once occupied by a long-closed Best store. Seven employees will train and work with 35 adults who are vocationally or physically impaired, helping them learn retail skills they can use to find jobs.

“We’re more than a thrift store,” said manager Jerry Hatfield.

The 16,000 square feet of retail displays also won’t look like a thrift store. Merchandise will be presented the same way many department stores do in order to replicate the retail environment that trainees might eventually work in, said Hatfield, who has worked for several major retailers.

In addition to sales, the Federal Way facility is after improved lives of the trainees. Referred to the non-profit, vocational program by bishops of the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS), they’ll mostly be members of the church who live in the Federal Way area, with some coming from Renton and Pierce County, Hatfield said.

“It’s not a job they have here. They’re enrolled in a training program,” he noted.

The Federal Way store is only the second in Washington (the other is on Aurora Avenue in Seattle), but is one of 43 in six states. The other states are Arizona, California, Utah, Idaho and Oregon.

Store locations are based partly on the size of the surrounding general population and the number of LDS church members. The latter donate about 90 percent of the merchandise, the lifeblood of the stores.

The stores and training program got their start in 1938, when Mormon church leaders sent two officials to Los Angeles, Calif. to study Goodwill Industries’ employment programs for ideas on how to start a similar operation. Before World War II, about a dozen Deseret Industries stores had opened in or around Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the LDS church. Another five were open in the Los Angeles area, and the number grew steadily into the 1950s and beyond.

Goodwill, an acknowledged leader nationally in its field, doesn’t see Deseret Industries as competition, but rather on the same page of helping the disadvantaged.

“All non-profit operations have an important mission,” said Susan Martenson, a spokeswoman for Tacoma Goodwill, whose 17 thirft stores include one in Federal Way about a block south of the new Deseret location.

“Goodwill’s mission is job-training and education. We’re firmly committed to that. And, of course, our thrift stores are serving an important purpose for many people,” Martenson said.

Tacoma Goodwill expects to provide vocational services this year to 2,400 people who have disabilities or other special needs. The services are funded through financial gifts, grants, fees and the revenue from thrift stores. Two more stores are scheduled to open June 10 in Lakewood and Sept. 9 near Puyallup.

Goodwill Industries International, an association of more than 170 autonomous member organizations with their own local directors, started in 1902 in Boston, Mass.

Trainees at Deseret (the name, taken from the Book of Mormon, refers to the industrious nature of the honeybee) sort donated clothing and other

items, price and stock merchandise, and assist customers.

The majority of trainees have physical, mental or societal (non-English-speaking, for instance) limitations and are members of the LDS church. Officials say about 30 percent are non-members.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. will launch the Federal Way store. Its normal hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. It will be closed Sundays.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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