Public ribbon cutting on Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. will include live music and early access to discounted inventory
By Jack Reaney STAFF WRITER
With holiday-budget-friendly timing, the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation will open a thrift store to help fill Big Sky’s void of discount retail.
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the community is invited to attend a ribbon cutting at Big Sky Thrift, located at 1700 Lone Mountain Trail. The new store will be staffed by volunteers and the YCCF will donate revenue through grants to community-building organizations. The store currently has sufficient inventory and volunteers to open and will begin accepting donations and volunteers on Jan. 2. Volunteers will earn store discounts and will play a key role in the grant-making process.
The old landmark American Bank-turned-YCCF facility will also open the Social Impact Hub, a shared coworking space for small nonprofits in the Gallatin Valley that lack office space, for a subscription fee paid to YCCF. The two services are intentionally combined in the new community-oriented space, but otherwise they are separate entities, according to Emily Burke, YCCF associate director of programs. She spearheaded the thrift shop.
As far as thrifting goes, Burke might be a perfect fit to run the place.
She comes from a life of retail work and enthusiasm for repurposing and thrifting. She told EBS it all started when she dropped out of college at age 19 and moved to Aspen, Colorado.
“I went to the thrift store, and I bought one bowl, one cup, one set of silverware. I had a job, but I didn’t have a place to live,” she recalled.
Burke made a career in the ski industry, “doing every [job] from ski tech to retail buyer,” she said. Before she moved to Big Sky, Burke lived in Aspen for 15 years and spent five as the youngest volunteer at Aspen’s thrift store. That community spirit didn’t elude her long, as she’s now proud to have garbage bags full of gear to give back to the Big Sky community in the coming weeks.
In Big Sky, Burke became the retail purchaser for the Yellowstone Club. There, she noticed a disturbing trend: members would buy new gear and wished to donate their—relatively—old stuff. But aside from YC employees and friends, Burke couldn’t find a home for many of the goods.
“I saw how many people need stuff here in our little town, and then how much stuff other people have. I thought, ‘We can connect the dots. We can do this better,” she said. “This started [two years ago] when I went on a ski date with the VP of philanthropy at [YCCF]. I shared my idea on the chairlift, and that’s how this came about.”
After that chairlift ride, Burke said she gave up her “top of the food chain retail buying job” and joined the YCCF to build Big Sky Thrift.
“It will make our town better,” she said. However, while the positive impact of a nonprofit secondhand store may seem obvious, she said people have been questioning her initiative.
“We need this. We desperately need this,” Burke said. “We want to provide an affordable, accessible and eco-friendly shopping option. We process and sell donated goods, it’s all volunteer-based, and then every dollar that we raise goes back into a grant-pool voted on by the volunteers. It’s cool.”
Big Sky Thrift will focus on “life essentials” including apparel, home goods, toys and books and outdoor gear. The store will not accept donations of large furniture, appliances or construction waste. Burke also emphasized that Big Sky Thrift cannot accept helmets and car seats for legal reasons.
Burke asked that community members wait to donate goods until Jan. 2, allowing time for shoppers to work through overflowing inventory from a couple successful community drives.
“The generosity of donations was off the charts. Overwhelming amounts of stuff—we received everything from bicycles and apparel to books and Christmas decorations. It’s all over the board,” Burke said. “We get things like 50-cent Hanes T-shirts, and we have brand-new Manolo Blahnik hiking boots worth $2,500.”
From a “dollar t-shirt bin” to a kayak priced at “a couple hundred dollars,” Burke said Big Sky thrift will sell something for every price point. She can’t set any sort of concrete price expectations for the shop, but she emphasized that shoppers should expect to pay between 10-20% of the market price; that’s something like a Patagonia jacket for $15, she said.
When ACRE Kitchen closed in Town Center this fall, Burke collected many items that were on track for the dumpster. That includes the paper bags which all goods will be sold in, and Burke is proud to say she won’t purchase any shopping bags, only planning to repurpose others. She also salvaged some of ACRE’s kitchen appliances, now furnishing the kitchen of the adjacent Social Impact Hub.
On Jan. 2, Burke said the shop will begin accepting volunteers for three-hour shifts through the Volunteer Big Sky website. Until then, her team looks to get started as they work out the kinks and sort through overwhelming inventory.
Big Sky Thrift hours of operation for December:
*Closed for Christmas Eve 12/24 and New Year’s Eve 12/31