Thrift Store Creates Unique Connection

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COLUMBIA - Value Giant Thrift Shoppe is a local Columbia company that opened in February.

Similar to other thrift stores, it offers all types of items, such as clothing, toys and furniture, at a reasonably low cost. Every Monday, customers can get 50 percent off all general merchandise.

"You can get a book for a quarter," Value Giant owner Jason Sutton said. "I mean, people still read, right?"

What makes it unique, though, is its connection to a local non-profit. Value Giant has paired itself with the National Federation of the Blind, or the NFB.

"We give tax deductions to the National Federation of the Blind," Sutton said. "So it's tax time. People sure could use the tax donation deduction I'm sure."

Having two blind parents, Sutton said there has always been a special place for the NFB in his life.

"The National Federation of the Blind is very close to me." Sutton said. "My mother is blind. And so I grew up around the National Federation of the Blind as a child."

Sutton said as technology continues to progress, new opportunities are becoming available for the blind, but the availability of the options isn't always in reach.

"As technology has improved, so has technology for blind people," Sutton said. "But with the cost often being so high, a lot of people can't afford the technology that's out there. This can be a great way to help raise some money and help get some product to much needed people."

Gary Wunder is the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri. He said the Federation is also struggling to bring in money, period.

"We have done a lot of solicitation through the mail," Wunder said. "But solicitation through the mail gets harder and harder as postal rates go up and the post office gets more and more picky about the things they'll take.

"Telephone solicitation used to make us money, but a lot of people simply don't like telephone solicitation very much and they are not happy when they call them. It's not effective."

Value Giant is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, another non-profit entity that is going through similar struggles.

"Prior to 2008, you had different revenue models," President of Columbia Chamber of Commerce Matt McCormick said. "As we went through the recession, a lot of those have either gone away or they've changed. So you're seeing all your non-profits having to get a little creative, including ourselves as a chamber."

Wunder said he sees his partnership as something that is creative enough to really help the federation.

"Our arrangement with Jason is that Jason is first and foremost to run a business and to provide a community service to the people of Columbia," Wunder said. "Give them what they want in terms of merchandise. And then we can get something from that, which is the reason that we're willing to lend our name to it.

"He has to be the guy who's smart enough to know how to manage the business. We have to be smart enough to know how to manage the charity."

One thing Wunder has had to work on managing is his family life. Being a part of the NFB for more than 40 years while raising four children that are all not blind, Wunder said it was a struggle at times.

"There were times when I was away from home and there were times when I spent time on the phone at home more than our son probably would have liked coming up," Wunder said.

Wunder and his wife raised three daughters and one son. His one son is the man he is now in business with-Jason Sutton.

"It makes us really proud that he thinks enough of the charity to make this partnership," Wunder said. "When he thought about going into the thrift shop business, he thought of us and that makes us feel like what we're doing is really worthwhile. He's seen what kind of a motivational force it's been for us, and I'm so greatful."

These two have made a special connection that will positively impact Columbia and their family.

"We hope the team is going to be a winning combination," Wunder said.

Even though Value Giant is already the largest thrift store in Columbia, encompassing about 16,000 square feet of merchandise, Sutton said he hopes to expand next door one day.

Value Giant is located at 1810 Paris Road in Columbia.