Veterans Warehouse eyed Richland’s old Albertsons but seeks alternative spot

Thelbert “Thadd” Lawson

Thelbert “Thadd” Lawson toured a former Albertsons in Richland as a possible new location for Veterans Warehouse Thrift Store, prompting speculation the long-empty grocery would finally come back to life.

Alas, there is no deal.

Lawson confirmed he was interested in the nearly 40,000-square-foot store. He loves the location and even made a proposal to lease it.

But the $200,000 estimated cost to reopen the building prompted a hard “no” from the board of his Wenatchee-based nonprofit, Operations Veterans Assistance & Humanitarian Aid.

The board looked over the numbers and delivered a clear message: “Find another building, please,” he said.

It would take $200,000 to open the doors to the public, including an estimated $50,000 to replace wiring that was stripped when Albertsons closed in February 2017. The only wiring left powers emergency lights, he said.

Refrigerators and freezers line the walls and would have to be removed. Many contain hazardous gases that could require specialists to handle.

Despite it all, Lawson said he would open the second Tri-City edition of Veterans Warehouse Thrift Store in Richland in a heartbeat. The former grocery is at 1320 Lee Blvd., within walking distance of at least three other thrift stores.

“I love the location,” he said. “It would be on the thrift store circuit. But it would be a lot of work.”

Lawson opened the first Tri-Cities outlet for Veterans Thrift in April, in the former Sports Authority at 908 N. Columbia St. in Kennewick.  The 40,000-square-foot retail spot is next to Lowe’s Home Improvement and had been empty for several years.

Lawson said he’s open to hearing about other locations that don’t require so much work.

“If you know of someone who has a building that’s a little more plug and play, I would go look at it,” he said.

Veterans Thrift sells furniture, clothing, household items and serves as a gathering spot, employment center and all-around support network for homeless and struggling veterans.

The Tri-Cities Area Journal of Business profiled Lawson and Veterans Thrift in February.  Go to tricitiesbusinessnews.com/2021/02/veterans-thrift.

Lawson dedicated himself to serving his fellow veterans who struggled to return to civilian life. The first Veterans Warehouse Thrift Store opened in November 2013 in Wenatchee and soared in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic as people stuck at home cleared out closets.

The thrift store’s flirtation with the old Albertsons building begs the question: What is happening with the old building?

The property is listed for rent through NAI Black, a Spokane-based commercial brokerage, which notes the property is held under a master lease through May 31, 2036.

The building is offered for rent at $10 per square foot per year on a triple net basis, meaning the tenant pays taxes, upkeep and utilities. Lawson said he was offered a free year of rent to get started.

The listing broker could not be reached to comment on marketing efforts.

The Benton County Assessor values the property at $2.8 million for property tax purposes.

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