A metropolis of secondhand goods curated by local vendors sits in the old Montgomery Ward department store building on W Main Street in Klamath Falls. Thrifty City is a network of roughly 50 vendors spread out over the building’s three stories.
Homeless members of the community are welcome through the threshold, where they can find a fresh bag of clothes and new coat. New homeowners shop for cleverly up-cycled furniture.
Thrifty City was founded by a family who enjoys serving the community with affordable clothing and home goods.
Lori Reeves opened the shop seven years ago with her husband who had recently lost his job and “needed a hobby,” she said. The shop is now run mostly by Reeves and her daughter Brianna Dean.
The business is still a family affair. Dean’s six children are also known to help out, and during the pandemic the children attended zoom class in the back office. While spending more time there, they became more interested in the business and asked to have their own Thrifty City booth.
Dean calls them “tiny pickers,” and they share two booths where they sell unique items found at garage sales or other thrift stores. Dean laughed and said her “tiny pickers” have good taste.
Family extends far at Thrifty City. Dean and her mother find ways to give extra support to vendors and other customers that need it.
One vendor, Dawn Valentine, said she wouldn’t have been able to make it through the pandemic if it weren’t for their generosity. Valentine said she had to maintain strict quarantine because of her job.
“These guys pulled me through, they really do treat everyone like family,” she said.
The store is also a place where unhoused people in Klamath Falls know they can find help.
“We try to help out where we can,” said Dean. When weather in the basin drops down to freezing, she finds coats for needy people that come into the store.
Reeves is known by vendors and regular customers as “Sis.” She said supporting the community is a priority for her. Reeves lets people who can’t pay right away keep tabs under $30 at the store.
“Here, they feel like, oh, someone’s giving me a chance and believes in me,” Reeves said.
Most pay their tabs at the beginning of each month, she said.
“You got to help out, you got to do what you can,” she said.
The organization receives many donations from the public so they feel they can afford to give back to the community. In fact, part of the store’s basement is a sea of black trash bags containing clothing donations that Dean and Reeves haven’t had time to go through.
To help with the overwhelming number of donations, Thrifty City partners with multiple nonprofits that use the supplies at shelters or donate them to community members who are trying to reintegrate after leaving drug abuse or mental health treatment programs.
One nonprofit they collaborate with called Red is the Road to Wellness, which facilitates peer recovery programs. They take clothes from Thrifty City and pass them along to members who need it.
“They’re a hub for homeless connections,” Dean said. She likes working with RRW because together they are able to reach more members of the community who need help.
That isn’t the shop’s only philanthropy, however. Thrifty City also works with the Women's Crisis Center and Sky Lakes Hospital to offer a voucher program for anyone who needs kitchen supplies or new clothes.
RRW is helping the shop apply for grants to renovate their building. They hope to turn the top two stories into transitional housing. Opening transitional housing has been a long-term goal for Reeves and Dean because of the lack of affordable housing in Klamath.
It is not going to be an easy feat to remodel their large building with a long list of cosmetic needs, but the Reeves and Dean are hopeful.
The mother-daughter duo wants to see their business develop into something that serves the community in more ways than clothing and vintage chairs. They are determined to do what they do best in the old building: Refurbish and renovate it into something fresh and new.