SPRINGFIELD, Mo- After 12 years of helping area youth charities, the Youth of the Ozarks (YOTO) thrift store is closing its doors.
Ken Childers, the owner of YOTO, says the store has been on the corner of Blaine Street and Glenstone Avenue for eight of those 12 years. He says the decision to close the store is because of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the business.
“We were just getting ready to start the busy season, the garage sale season when the order came to shut down if you’re not an essential business. And we decided, okay, we have to,” says Childers.
He says closing the business in March was fine, but when it came time to reopen, he hesitated because of family members who are immune-compromised. Childers did not want to be around people at the store while there was still some uncertainty of the virus and risk bringing it back to his family.
Childers also didn’t want to go into people’s homes to pick up donated furniture. People would donate furniture, Childers and some other YOTO staff would go and pick the furniture up and other small donated items. The money made at YOTO would go towards bills and youth charities around the Ozarks.
“We got behind on some of the bills and things like that to the point we’re like ‘you know what? We’re just not going to go forward any longer.’ We have other things we’re interested in doing,” says Childers.
He says he is happy to have been able to help out many kids and families with the store, with many of those families becoming regulars of YOTO.
“Just the other day we had somebody come in and say, ‘hey after my divorce when I had nothing, and I had to start completely over, I got furniture form, you guys. Now I’m fully employed. Even if there were years between when we first helped them, they still honored us. And they remember that we helped them with a hand-up not a hand-out, but a hand-up that many years ago,” he says.
The store has liquidation sales to clear everything out by the end of July, Childers says that is when he has to have the store cleaned spotlessly. Each week the sales are going to rise, this week everything is 70% off and will increase until the store is empty.
Childers is currently a co-owner of City Music, a new record store on South Campbell.