Peak Thrift Is Packed With Surprising Finds — Including Its Mission

If you peak into Peak Thrift in northwest Denver's Chaffee Park neighborhood, you may be rewarded with a cool, unexpected find: a hip vest, some DIY crafting tools, Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl. But what's perhaps coolest about this store is its social mission. All proceeds support Peak Thrift's parent organization, Urban Peak, a nonprofit that's been working for almost thirty years to address issues of homelessness in metro Denver, helping homeless youth create self-determined and fulfilling lives.

In recognition of both its stock and service. Peak Thrift snagged our Best Thrift Shop in the Best of Denver 2016 — just two months after it opened.

Besides Peak Thrift, Urban Peak runs a shelter, an education center and a street outreach team, as well as other programs. Sales at Peak Thrift support those, but the store has another benefit. As Chris Venable, education and employment supervisor at Urban Peak, explains: "Because a big part of our programming is actually giving back to the youth that we serve, when somebody gets into an apartment of their own for the first time and they don’t have the funds to go buy a couch or a bed or utensils, even, we can provide some of that to them for free, or at little cost to them." The store also employs homeless or formerly homeless youth, providing them with job skills and experiences that will help them lead independent lives. 

Gwen Stacy is one of those. With no place to stay,  Stacy went to Urban Peak for shelter and support, and she worked her way through the nonprofit's Customer Service Training and Job Readiness Training programs; today she's an employee at Peak Thrift. Stacy says she ultimately hopes to become a novelist or screenwriter.

While Denver may not lack youth job-readiness programs, few really focus on homeless youth. "One of the reasons why I do this work, and why I continue to do it," Venable says, "is because very early on when I was here, we helped a young woman get a job at a Walmart. We were excited for her and she was excited, and the very next day I came in to go to work and I had to step over her sleeping in the doorway of our building. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to try to get up and go to work when you’ve been sleeping on a sidewalk overnight."

The store's social mission is backed by a strong business foundations. "We worked with the DU executive MBA program," Venable explains."They had a cohort of students, and they came in and did feasibility studies on a number of ideas ranging from a coffee shop to food trucks to screen printing to sales of goods sold by youth. And what we found was that although each of those had various pros and cons, they really didn’t have enough employment and training opportunities, or the overhead was just too much to get involved with it — with a coffee shop, for example. So the next group of students came in and did a really in-depth study on a thrift-store concept, and we landed on what is sort of a balance between what was a real thrift store and a higher-end boutique." Besides clothes, the store offers some electronics, books and even a DIY crafts section.
Urban Peak rented space from an adjacent Save-a-Lot for the store, with the goal of opening before the winter holidays. But some permitting issues pushed the opening back to late January, and it's still gaining traction in the neighborhood. But the owners of the Save-a-Lot offered a few months of free rent, and the community has been supportive. "It looks great," says Venable. "In the community – not just the Chaffee Park neighborhood we’re in, but Globeville, Sunnyside, Highland — everybody’s super- supportive; everyone, when they come in, says, ‘It looks so great in here.'”

Peak Thrift is located at 4890 Pecos Street and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Learn more here.

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Luke Leavitt
Contact: Luke Leavitt