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Perry Roberts, executive director of the Montana Rescue Mission

Perry Roberts, executive director of the Montana Rescue Mission, looks over Minnesota Avenue from the window of the MRM thrift store. The store will be closing in a week or two.

The Montana Rescue Mission’s downtown thrift store will accept donations through the weekend, stay open at least a week and then close for good.

The store, in the former Granny’s Attic building at 2804 Minnesota Ave., wasn’t profitable and the employees are needed elsewhere, said director Perry Roberts.

“No employees will lose their jobs. That’s part of what is precipitating the move to close,” he said. “We are so desperate for employees in the Heights and our West End stores that we decided to fill those positions with the best people, the ones that already work for us.”

The charity pays employees $8.50 an hour to start, a wage that makes them eligible for SNAP food cards and even space in MRM’s Women’s and Family Shelter if they are hit by rent hikes, Roberts said.

The charity’s operations underwent a recent evaluation that pointed toward a need for better wages.

“We are in the process of trying to raise our starting level wage for all employees. That has a bottom line impact on our business,” Roberts said.

Donors give MRM money to run the two downtown shelters, for women and families and for men, which is another reason to close the downtown thrift store, he said.

The eight employees were told about the impending closure on Sept. 24. The former Granny’s Attic building with two stories and a full basement will continue to be used for warehouse space.

MRM’s board began discussing closing the downtown store in 2009.

“We didn’t do that, but we haven’t been able to make any money since then,” Roberts said. “The downtown store has made money only once in the last four years.”

MRM operates thrift stores at 1321 Main St. in Billings Heights and on the West End at 1233 24th St. W. Its administration offices are located at 2902 Minnesota Ave.

There are currently three downtown thrift stores: MRM, which will close in a week or so, St. Vincent de Paul and Salvation Army.

“We lost some sales with the revitalization of the Salvation Army store because thrift store shoppers are thrift store shoppers,” Roberts said. “They like to make the rounds.”

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Business editor for the Billings Gazette.