The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor voted in September to authorize the sale of its downtown Activity Center. The onetime grocery warehouse at the corner of First and Washington has been the organizational hub of the Ann Arbor chapter since 1968, and its Saturday morning Kiwanis Thrift Sale draws all sorts of Ann Arborites to look for deals on everyday and unique items. The downtown sale will continue while the building is marketed, and the club’s second location, on Staebler Rd. off Jackson, will continue to hold its Friday and Saturday morning sales as well.
The vote was the result of a financial crisis spurred by the club’s 2014 purchase of the secondary location, called Kiwanis Center West. Kiwanis had purchased the building from Sheridan Books, which had continued to rent part of the space until last December when it consolidated into its Chelsea headquarters. The club has struggled to find a tenant to fill Sheridan’s vacancy, and the mortgage payments are threatening to cut into the $250,000 or more in annual charitable grants and donations that the sales at both locations previously supported.
The club’s strategic planning committee sent a letter to members in late July that recommended selling the downtown location. “Very few, if any, of the membership wants to sell downtown,” says committee co-chair Dan Dever. “This is an attempt to get ahead of consequences that may be coming in terms of changes in the downtown, the limitations of what we can do downtown, and the fact that if we sell downtown, we’ll be able to pay off our debt and return almost immediately to the level of giving we wish to achieve.”
We caught up with local artist Celibeth Donnelly as she looked through the first-floor clothing racks a few weeks before the vote. Donnelly has been going to the sale since 1992 in search of “old, vintage, weird stuff.” Though she now goes to the Kiwanis West sale as well, she says “there’s a sense of community down here that you might not get out at the other location. People will walk to here, where they can’t [at Kiwanis West].” Ultimately though, she’s happy “as long as it doesn’t go away totally!”
Kiwanis Thrift Sale Downtown, 200 S. First, 665-0450. Sale hours: Sat 9 a.m.-noon. a2kiwanis.org