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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Salvation Army Closes River West Thrift Store, Drug Rehab Center Near Tribune Printing Plant Being Considered For Casino

Tucked away on a side street near the West Loop, the thrift store has long been a destination for affordable clothes and furniture in the pricey neighborhood.

The Salvation Army thrift store at 509 N. Union Ave., which closed earlier this month
Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
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RIVER WEST – The Salvation Army has permanently closed its adult rehabilitation center and thrift store in River West, citing “significant disruptions” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The River West thrift store, 509 N. Union Ave., has long been a destination in the neighborhood for cheap furniture and clothing. The closure comes as the Tribune Publishing Center, directly north of the thrift store at 700 W. Chicago Ave., made the city’s shortlist to host Chicago’s first casino.

Both the thrift store and the adult rehabilitation center at 506 N. Desplaines St. next door closed all services earlier this month, the organization confirmed. The sites are next to the Kennedy Expressway.

Proceeds from Salvation Army thrift stores fund its adult rehabilitation centers, which offer drug counseling and programs to almost 175,000 people nationwide, the organization said.

In a statement, Major Kendall Mathews, administrator of the Salvation Army’s Chicago Adult Rehabilitation Center, said losses during the pandemic, on top of ongoing building costs, have left the River West store and treatment facility no longer financially viable.

“The Salvation Army has recently experienced significant disruptions to operating revenue caused by necessary thrift store closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. A number of additional factors, such as the age and maintenance costs of existing buildings and increased operational costs, have also impacted facility’s long-term sustainability,” the statement said.

Future participants for the adult rehabilitation center are being referred to the Salvation Army location at 2258 N. Clybourn Ave., which also houses a thrift store.

“Existing beneficiaries were allowed to graduate from their program, receiving the spiritual guidance, group and individual counseling and recreational activities they need in their pursuit to live productive and balanced lives, with no disruption to their path to rehabilitation,” the statement said.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
The now-shuttered Salvation Army thrift store building, 509 N. Union Ave. in River West

On Wednesday afternoon, several potential customers stopped by the thrift store, not knowing it had closed.

Neighbor Carlos Roques said he’s mourning the loss of the store, one of the few places in the neighborhood to find affordable housewares.

“Thrift stores are very valuable and to be able to buy cheaper furniture, like I mean, this store furnished my entire house. Everything in my bedroom is from here, so it’s kind of lame,” Roques said.

The Salvation Army is directing customers to shop and donate at its 20 other thrift store locations across the Chicago area.

“Although unfortunate, these changes are necessary to ensure that The Salvation Army can sustain the adult rehabilitation ministry,” the statement said. “Despite the challenging times, The Salvation Army remains committed to the community and its residents and is in continual discussions to expand the services offered to the Chicagoland community.”

In recent decades, the area surrounding the Salvation Army’s River West location has seen an influx of luxury condos, high-end retail and restaurants. The Tribune Publishing Plant site just north of the thrift store is among three finalists for the casino plan. Bally’s Corporation is behind the $1.8 billion proposal that would include 500 hotel rooms, a 3,000 seat entertainment venue, and several restaurants, bars and cafes along the Chicago River.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
A sign above Grand Avenue for the now shuttered Salvation Army thrift store in River West

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