Arc Thrift Store: Thrifting that makes a differenceJun 29, 2021 05:40AM ● By Melanie Wiseman
Amber Thorp, center, and Arc CEO Lloyd Lewis, right, at the local store’s grand opening in February 2020.
Amber Thorp is the ultimate optimist. Especially considering that by age 5, she had experienced at least two severe head traumas. As an adult, she has been trying to beat the odds and defy her intellectual disabilities. But that’s easier said than done, especially when many jobs are more dependent on speed than employees’ reliability.
That changed six years ago when she was hired by Arc Colorado, an organization whose mission is to generate funding to support advocacy programs for persons with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism and other forms of cognitive deficit.
She was an ambassador employee for Arc in Denver before continuing her career at the Grand Junction thrift store at 2830 North Ave. Thorp felt adopted by the company and her fellow employees right away. She loves the fact that she can do just about everything at the store, except be the manager.
“I’m very popular wherever I go,” said Thorp. “I can’t help it.”
According to Arc Thrift Stores CEO Lloyd Lewis, 66, Thorp is far more popular among her coworkers and customers than he is.
PATH AND OPPORTUNITY
When Lewis’ son, Kennedy, was born with Down syndrome in 2003, he left financial corporate America and threw himself into scientific research and advocacy. He joined the board of directors of Arc to learn more about the challenges adults with disabilities face so he could get a clearer picture of where his son was headed.
“When I started to get to know adults with disabilities, I was surprised to see them lift everyone’s spirits, take pride in their work, be positive, generous, loving and kind,” said Lewis. “They are very inspirational, love their jobs, and have a zero turnover—the perfect employee.”
Lewis’ experience in the business world and desire to make a difference led him to become CEO of Colorado Arc in 2005. Revenue from Arc’s 30 retail locations are the primary source of funding for 15 Arc chapters, which support advocacy programs for persons with intellectual disabilities.
Arc of Colorado processes millions of items each year, 95 percent which are donated. From clothing to furniture and housewares, Arc makes the thrill of finding quality one-of-a-kind items easy and enjoyable—especially for those on a budget.
It cost Lewis just $1,500 to furnish his house using wares from Arc thrift stores.
“Before I became CEO, I don’t think I’d ever been in a thrift store,” Lewis admitted.
Seniors age 55 and older can snag even better deals every Tuesday with 50 percent off everything except the current week’s merchandise.
Lewis leads the company with the philosophy that the more successful Arc is as a business, the more funds can be used to support its advocacy programs. Over 80 percent of the Grand Junction store’s income goes directly to supporting these programs.