Former PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro may have to close doors after 72 years

A 72-year-old community thrift shop in Carrboro desperately needs donations to stop a pending foreclosure.

The CommunityWorx thrift shop building and an office building next door were listed for sale at $4.7 million in December. The thrift shop started in 1952 as the PTA Thrift Shop, selling second-hand goods to support the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

The sale was a last-ditch effort to keep the nonprofit thrift store and its YouthWorx on Main center next door in business, board of directors Chairman Kevin Hicks told The News & Observer at the time.

On Monday, CommunityWorx president and chief executive officer Barbara Jessie-Black emailed supporters asking for donations. Fidelity Bank, which holds the mortgage, has started foreclosure proceedings to close the thrift shop, she said.

“We urgently need the support of community heroes who care about racial equity, the environment, education, and the nonprofits that depend on these resources,” Jessie-Black said. ::Major cash donations are crucial to prevent commercial developers from taking over these properties, which would strip away a cornerstone of community support.”

The nonprofit organization would have to pay the whole amount remaining on the mortgage to stop the foreclosure, Hicks told The N&O in a phone call Monday.

How much does CommunityWorx owe?

Tax returns show the thrift store owed $4.2 million on its mortgage as of June 30, 2023.

CommunityWorx was trying to work with financial relief programs offered by Fidelity Bank, Jessie-Black said. The hope was that an investor would buy the property, totaling over 26,000 square feet on 1.7 acres, and let the thrift store stay as a tenant, while leasing out the 7,330-square-foot office space on its second floor, Hicks said previously.

There have been several potential buyers, he said Monday. One recently had the property under contract but wanted the nonprofit organization to remove the “Black Lives Matter” mural on the side of the building before signing the deal.

The town owns the mural, Hicks said, and although CommunityWorx petitioned the town about the request, it ran out of time, he said.

What led to this situation?

The former PTA Thrift Shop took out a $5.5 million mortgage to build a new thrift shop and the CommunityWorx building next door, which leases co-working space to several community operations.

The thrift shop reduced its distributions to local PTAs in 2012, after issuing $265,000 in 2011. That year, Jessie-Black told the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board that distributions could be $400,000 or more within five years.

The schools have received little to no money since the building started, causing a rift between the thrift shop and the PTAs, and after a short legal battle, the nonprofit was forced to change its name to CommunityWorx in 2019.

A six-month shutdown in 2020 because of the global pandemic caused “a significant loss of revenue,” Jessie-Black said in Monday’s email. It also forced CommunityWorx to close its second location in leased space at Village Plaza shopping center in Chapel Hill.

The sale would let the nonprofit organization break even and continue operating, Hicks said.

Available tax returns showed CommunityWorx earned $785,270 in the last 11 years, while losing $1.2 million.

The PTA Thrift Store opened in Village Plaza shopping center in 1981. In December 2020, the renamed CommunityWorx will close its doors.
The PTA Thrift Store opened in Village Plaza shopping center in 1981. In December 2020, the renamed CommunityWorx will close its doors.

What other groups would be affected?

The YouthWorx on Main building houses nine community nonprofit organizations that serve local young people:

Grow Your World

Youth Mentoring Collaborative

Musical Empowerment

Refugee Community Partnership

Reintegration Support Network

SKJAJA Fund

Triangle Bikeworks

Weaver Community Housing Association

The Humane Society of the United States

The sale could also affect CommunityWorx’s local partnerships, including a voucher program that helps people experiencing homelessness through the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service and food programs with the Carrboro Farmers Market and Camelia Culinary Consultation LLC.

How to help CommunityWorx

Donations can be made online at communityworxnc.org or contact Barbara Jessie-Black at bjessie-black@communityworxnc.org.

NC Reality Check is an N&O series holding those in power accountable and shining a light on public issues that affect the Triangle or North Carolina. Have a suggestion for a future story? Email realitycheck@newsobserver.com