558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
The Soroptimist Neat Repeat celebrates 40 years
The local entity is managed by the local Soroptimists through their Charitable Trust
March 18, 2013
Made by Kraft Foods or not, that shimmering, red glob of translucent gelatin dessert will be forever known as Jell-O. Kleenex alleviates the fallout of that pesky cold, even though the box sports the Western Family logo.
Somewhat the same holds true for a long-time business in Prineville. Think “thrift store,” and most people say, “Neat Repeat.” It’s a fitting honor for a re-sale store that’s been serving locals — and more — for 40 years.
To most, the Neat Repeat looks like the typical second-hand establishment. Rows of clothing and shoes, as well as the ubiquitous kitchen glassware and small appliances, dominate the sales floor. There’s a section for tools as well as one for sports gear. Whole rooms are dedicated to books and quality furniture.
Whatever you need, you’re liable to find it at the Neat Repeat, including a vividly-colored, Crayola–themed computer keyboard, or even a pink hardhat.
However, shoppers may not realize that both the Neat Repeat and the Prineville Senior Center are owned and managed by the local Soroptimists, through the Soroptimist Charitable Trust. According to vice president Dale Comini, the store has been part of the Senior Center’s business equation from the very start, and today supplies more than 90 percent of the Senior Center’s funding.
“We got the Neat Repeat going in order to support the Senior Center,” she said. “We weren’t getting any help from the government, the city, or the county.”
In 1973, Neat Repeat was significantly smaller than today’s spacious storefront, located as it was in an old gas station on Third Street. It was so small, she said, that they rented a cottage — on land now occupied by City Hall — as a place to sort donated goods. During the next 15 years, Neat Repeat found itself first in a former furniture store on Main Street, and then on the back side of an old bowling alley. By 1990, the Soroptimists had purchased almost the entire city block that contained both the bowling alley (by then, remodeled to become the Senior Center) and the old furniture store, and Neat Repeat returned to Main Street, where it eventually expanded and became the store it is today.
Peggy McCutchen has managed the Neat Repeat for eight years, and said she was specifically hired to make changes, one of which was to replace the mostly all-volunteer staff with paid positions. There are now eight paid employees, three of whom work full time. She also relocated the cash register to the center of the store and swapped the circular display racks for linear models.
“You couldn’t get through them,” explained McCutchen. “The disabled people couldn’t get through anywhere with a wheelchair. We’ve cleaned it up a lot. We found the corners and the walls that they hadn’t seen for years. We get a lot of compliments now. A lot of people say it’s the cleanest thrift store they’ve ever been in.”
The economic situation proved to be a wild card.
“We’ve got a lot of family people now that shop,” she said. “With the economy the way it is, they can’t afford to go buy new. It used to be people would come by more or less hunting something special. Now they’re coming and hunting clothing, and shoes, and coats — more necessity-type stuff.”
Donations have also been affected, she said. People are keeping their belongings longer, and when they do decide to get rid of items, they tend to sell them on Craigslist or at yard sales. There’s also competition from smaller second-hand stores that have sprung up around town.
“The first three or four years that I worked here, everything that came was a lot of new stuff,” she said. “Now when it comes, it’s more worn, you might say. We still get a lot of very nice donations. That’s what keeps us going.”
The Neat Repeat won’t accept just any donation that comes through the door, McCutchen emphasized. Large items or fitted items, such as golf clubs and bowling balls, are definite no-nos.
“We don’t take anything that the ladies (employees) can’t handle,” she said. “So as far as big stuff like hide-a-beds, or organs, or anything like that, we don’t take.”
One challenge over the years, McCutchen said, has been to convince people not to dump “donations” in the area behind the store, and to let the public know that Neat Repeat was only interested in good, clean, sellable goods. Shoplifting has also been an issue, although she said it’s kind of leveled out. Putting the cash register in the center of the store helped.
“It really got to me,” she said, “because, you know what? We’re trying to make money to keep the Senior Center going, and these people are walking up with stuff after we wash it, and clean it up, and put it out there. It’s not as bad now as it was.”
The Neat Repeat resale store
Location: 170 N. Main St.
Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., on Saturday.
Donations of good, usable merchandise are accepted from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., all days.