Look behind the collection of clothes, toys and furniture at Palouse Treasures and you’ll find more than just your average thrift store.
The store is a branch of Boost Collaborative, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing opportunities for people with disabilities. According to the collaborative’s brochure, Palouse Treasures “serves as a training facility for participants working their way towards independent employment.”
“It’s an assessment of work ethic,” Palouse Treasures Manager Lucas Kreikemeier said. “The store is an interface for that and seeing how they interact.”
Kreikemeier said Palouse Treasures takes clients from Palouse Collaborative and provides them with a job. Some of these clients come to the collaborative wanting work experience, he said, while others are recommended by their parents, caretakers or local housing companies for people with disabilities.
Once they start working, each client has a goal they want to accomplish. A training specialist from Boost monitors their progress and writes a daily report to share with the program director and other coordinators.
“Every day I have a strategy to change [the clients’] performance in a better way,” said Kayoko Nadamoto, one of the training specialists with Boost. “I have to learn each person’s abilities and how to approach [them].”
An employee stacks children's books on a shelf at Palouse Treasures, Jan. 2020.
Nadamoto said these goals can include increasing productivity, learning to be respectful to everyone and completing assigned tasks. Once the director and coordinators read the reports on her clients, she said, they meet with each to discuss progress and choose new goals.
Palouse Treasures pays these clients during their assessment period and will often offer ongoing employment after they complete the program. This and the rise in minimum wage, Kreikemeier said, control the prices in the store.
“The more we can make at the thrift store, the more we can do without state funding,” he said.
Kreikemeier’s upstairs office, which doubles as a sorting room, is usually overflowing with “mountains of clothes,” he said, but was mostly empty. He said winter is the store’s slump season, but in May and June, the entire room’s worth of merchandise will go in and out within a day.
Clients from Boost Collaborative help out in this back room, sorting and pricing items for sale. The store also has a mobile crew that travels to house calls and collects donations.
Kreikemeier said clothes that have been in the store too long or don’t meet Palouse Treasures’ standards go into a set of bins along the wall marked “Buffalo.” These items go to Buffalo Exchange in Seattle. There, they may be sent to people in need, or torn up and used as grease rags if the donation is low-quality.“We try to pride ourselves on the least amount of waste in clothing,” he said.
Since the store provides a platform for strengthening and diversifying the community, Kreikemeier said he wants more people to understand the purpose of Palouse Treasures and the larger picture with Boost Collaborative.
“This place isn’t here to take your money and run,” he said. “There’s a real mission behind it.”
Palouse Treasures is located at 1005 NW Nye St. Pullman. They are open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.