SARANAC LAKE - The Church of St. Luke will close the thrift shop it has operated in the Baldwin House for more than 50 years, and is asking for the community's help in finding a new mission for the building.
The Budget Box, located on Church Street next to the Episcopal church, will close its doors on Oct. 31, the Rev. Ann Gaillard of St. Luke's said Monday. She said the decision was made because of the difficulty in finding volunteers to run the operation, and because it's no longer needed, given that there are now several other thrift shops in the village.
"When the Budget Box was founded, it was the only thrift shop or second-hand clothing shop in town," Gaillard said. "There was a real need for that kind of thing. Over the years, more thrift shops have opened up, including Go Fish and the Main Street Exchange.
The Budget Box, a volunteer-run thrift shop located in the Church of St. Luke’s Baldwin House on Church Street, will close Oct. 31. Church leaders want to find another use for the building that benefits the community.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"The other thing, which is certainly the case with other volunteer organizations in town, is that the world has changed and there are really few stay-at-home-moms anymore looking for opportunities to volunteer, and we just don't have the volunteer base anymore. It was really a combination of the fact that we felt that the need for another thrift shop was no longer there, and the fact that our volunteers were having a hard time keeping up."
The handful of volunteers who run the Budget Box met in July and recommended to the church's leadership that the shop be closed. Church officials have accepted that decision, Gaillard said.
Designed by architect William Coulter and built around 1900, the Baldwin House was originally the home and medical office of Dr. Edward R. Baldwin, director of the Saranac Laboratory who later was chairman of the Trudeau Sanatorium executive committee, according to Historic Saranac Lake wiki website. Baldwin died in 1947, and the church purchased the home in 1958. It used the three-story building's first floor for the Budget Box while its large second-floor bedrooms were used for Sunday School and meeting space.
Now that the Budget Box is closing, church leaders are looking for a new vision for the building that benefits the community. Before that can happen, however, Gaillard said the church plans to launch a capital campaign to renovate the Baldwin House and make it handicapped accessible so part of it can be used for church meetings or office space.
"But the church doesn't need to use the entire building," she said. "It has more space than we need, so we've been talking with parishioners and community leaders about what they perceive as space needs in the community. How can St. Luke's use the building for mission and ministry in the community?"
Local leaders were invited to a meeting last week to discuss community needs and possible future uses of the building. About 35 people attended, Gaillard said.
Some of the ideas that were suggested, she said, included making the Baldwin House a multi-generational computer center for teens and adults, or a clearing house for people who need public assistance.
Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Gerald Goldman, who is retiring at the end of this school year, said the building could provide respite housing for teenagers who need a place to stay.
"That's always been sort of an idea that I thought would benefit a number of kids in Saranac Lake," Goldman said at last week's Saranac Lake school board meeting. "Not necessarily kids that are permanently homeless, but there are times when they are in distress, and I think it would really benefit them if they had a place to land for a temporary period of time where they had adult supervision."
Goldman said it wouldn't be easy.
"It would take a lot of coordination and grant money and that kind of thing, but I'm jumping into it with both feet," he said.
Gaillard said Goldman's idea is "certainly a possibility." She said all the suggestions people have already made, and any additional ideas, will need to be investigated further. It could be another year or two before something moves forward, Gaillard said.
"We're not even close to making a decision yet," she said. "The word that we keep using, because it's a church kind of word, is 'discernment.' It's really about having lots of conversation, thinking very hard, taking our time and not rushing. It will be a big project, and we want to make sure we do it right."
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.