Moab Happenings Archive
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WabiSabi Thrift Store Presents: “Heart and Soul”, the Story
and the Glory of Imperfection – Part 2 (We’re in a Mystery)
by Nancy Kurtz

The saga of Moab’s longest running thrift store continues. We thought it was time to report on Wabi’s progress – well, we promised we would do that. So we went and had another talk with general manager Leah Bear.

If you read this column last May, “WabiSabi Thrift Store – On the Move Again,” you may recall that the property went up for sale, and due to the ever-growing heat of the in-town market, went under contract last March. Ever since the nonprofit has been aggressively on the lookout for a new space, one that would hopefully still be in town to provide easy access for all.

But to say that Wabi is merely a place to go shopping for deals is to deny the core truth – every nonprofit in Moab is a kind of hub, a piece of a web connecting numerous “partners”, which finds roots in the heart and soul mindset that describes what Moab really is beneath the hype. You could call it Old Moab, or Real Moab, and Wabi, for 20 plus years now has been a poster child for nourishing this heartfelt dynamic. “A lot of people don’t know the extent of what we do,” Leah Bear tells me.

See, it isn’t only about placing a token in a particular slot for a chosen nonprofit when you exit the store. Leah Bear talks about a “voucher system” which put quite simply provides “immediate relief” to those who seek out other town agencies, people who are homeless or otherwise disadvantaged, whose homes are destroyed by natural disasters like fires, and also newcomers to town who arrive at a critical life moment minus basic needs.

At Wabi they find everything from warm socks, shoes and mittens, to a bed or a chair or a washer/dryer to an alarm clock to wake up to a new job. A large portion of Moab entities, not only nonprofits but the police and other official agencies, all have a place on this web.

Finding a new home is, of course, the priority for Bear this year. Wabi has been working with a consulting firm out of Salt Lake City to strategize their “capital campaign,” embarking on finding $3.5 million and a new location within the next year. So far, due to the generosity of Board members and others, as well as adding on new fund-raising events, about a tenth of that has been raised.

Some of the potential locations are outside of town, and Bear is considering leasing one of those properties as a transitional option until an in-town space can be made viable.

With the clock ticking, Wabi’s outreach has been on an uptick. They revived their communal Thanksgiving dinner in 2023 and added new events like a street-centered fall fest and a food and music-filled “Compassionate Chefs” fund-raising bash last December. Another street fest this spring may likely happen and rumors abound – will they bring back the infamous and historic WabiSabi Fashion Show? (Ooh, a big ask: “I would love to bring it back but I can’t commit!” Bear laughs.)

Plans are in the works for future endeavors that will more directly involve the whole town. And meanwhile, “discussions” are being held. Although finding the new space is still a work in progress, Leah Bear is characteristically upbeat: “My blood, sweat and tears are in this, and we’ll get there, even if we have to operate out of a shoebox.”

Watch this space…
160 East, 100 South; 435-259-3313, open daily 10-6.
And be sure to mention you read about WabiSabi in Moab Happenings.

You can read the Article part 1 - On the Move Again Here

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