The Coconut Telegraph is humming with news that the Salvation Army store in Marathon will be closing soon. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, about a half dozen shoppers were scavenging the racks like it might be their last chance, although the doors won’t close until Tuesday, Oct. 15.
“I’m a single mom. This place has been a life saver for me for the last nine years,” said Daniella Berrios.
“I’m a single mom, too. I’ve always shopped here. It’s really sad, you know,” said Jennifer Graves.
Danny Yeider, a longtime resident, said he buys all his fishing clothes at the Salvation Army. (On that day, however, he was holding an attractive pair of candlesticks.)
“We need a petition to fight this closing. We were just talking about it,” he said, waving at the other customers in the strip mall storefront on the south end of town.
The announcement came to a shock to many Marathon residents, a town with very limited options for treasure hunters and struggling families. They’ve been shopping at the Salvation Army for almost two decades.
The decision to close the store was made at corporate headquarters in Tampa said Florida Keys region Salvation Army Captain Max Perez. The stores in Key West and Key Largo will continue to operate.
“The Marathon store has been struggling for the last year. It doesn’t make enough to cover the cost for its employees,” Perez said.
The three Salvation Army employees in Marathon will be let go. None would speak on the record, but it’s apparent the decision is unwelcome.
“It’s going to be hard on the families that need this service,” said Mike Puto who sits on the Salvation Army advisory board for Marathon. “I don’t think there will even be Salvation Army social services offices in Marathon anymore.”
The closing of the store isn’t solely financial. It has also lost its address. Recently, Community Health (CHI) purchased the entire building to expand its medical services.
Perez said he is due to rotate out of the Keys soon and another Salvation Army officer will take his place. He said he believes it will be the responsibility of the new officer to look for space for the administrative offices and then, possibly, a new location for the store.
The telephone number of the Salvation Army Headquarters in Tampa is 813-383-5656.