Published: December 13, 2017
Behind the bright blue barn-style door of Déjà Blue Boutique exists a utopia of carefully curated clothing, shoes and accessories. What isn’t readily visible, however, is the impact every dollar spent here makes on Goodwill’s career development programs for those in need. Stuart Davie, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries Denver, sat down with us to tell us how this unique boutique is strengthening our community.
How is Déjà Blue different from the other thrift stores that Goodwill operates?
We have 31 stores in our area, which extends from Castle Rock up to the Wyoming border, and one of those stores is Déjà Blue. Donations we get from this Cherry Creek area, in particular, are often high-end labels. Since we need to be good stewards of our donations, we need to match the right products with the right sales position, and that is what Déjà Blue is all about.
It’s possible that the savvy shopper can find some high-end brands and retailers in Déjà Blue?
It definitely is. I’m told they’re about to put out some donations we just received that include FENDI, Gucci, Versace, Chanel…some of them have the original tags on. I was in here a while back and there was a Brooks Brothers jacket that would have cost you at least $400 and we had it for $40. Most people shop thrift because of the economic benefit you get, but there is also adventure in treasure hunting. When you shop at Déjà Blue, you’re also supporting Goodwill’s career development programs.
A lot of people love experiencing that shopping “adventure” with friends, and I understand Déjà Blue offers private shopping parties free of charge?
We do, and people can bring their own food and beverages and have their own private shopping experience with their closest friends. You can call this location directly to set it up.
This was the first store of its kind for Goodwill in Colorado. Why do you think Cherry Creek North was selected as Déjà Blue’s home in 2012?
Cherry Creek North is a higher-end market both for donations and for sales.
So while Déjà Blue is located in an upscale neighborhood, the proceeds generated by this store support a broad cross-section of individuals?
Déjà Blue directly supports our career development programs, which are focused on trying to get people into jobs or on a career path. Our largest program is for youth. Last year, we were in 36 Denver Public Schools and advised about 17,000 students on soft skills – resume writing, interviewing techniques and planning. Some of those students will go into commerce and industry jobs, some to community colleges and some onto four-year colleges. I mentor in that program and I love doing it.
The second program we run is for adults who have some barrier to employment, whether past-related or something other barrier. We run career connection centers, have placement opportunities, and give people the opportunity to practice interview techniques, resume writing and some basic computer skills.
Our third program is for people with mental or physical disabilities. We try to get people into pre-vocational training whenever possible.
What percentage of the money raised here actually gets reinvested in Goodwill’s career development programs?
Roughly 92% goes back into programs and 8% to administration, and we’re very proud of that.
I understand the mission of Goodwill is one that speaks to you personally. Why?
Part of the reason I came to work for Goodwill is that I come from a very poor background in the UK. I left school at 16 and went to work. My father died when I was a teenager, and my mom had four kids in subsidized housing, so I’ve got a lot of empathy for the people we serve.
I actually went to university when I was 19 and studied for an engineering degree. I got in to medical devices and pharmaceuticals on the IT side. I spent most of my career as a CIO for a number of companies. And then in 2012, I came back to semi-retire in Colorado and got a call from Goodwill.
The reason I work at Goodwill is because of the mission. It's not because we run thrift stores. I live in Fort Collins. I drive a hundred miles a day just to come to work. I don't do this for the salary, I do it for the mission.
I don't know if you can relate to this, but I am often plagued with buyer's remorse when I buy something. I’m thinking buyer’s remorse wouldn’t really be an issue if you’re shopping at Déjà Blue, however?
It’s a different experience here. Shoppers should remember they’re supporting Goodwill’s career development services with every item they purchase here, and that’s something to feel good about.
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