BARSTOW Less than a year after it opened its thrift store, Desert Manna Ministries has been told to vacate the building by the end of February.

The owner of the building that houses Manna Gotta Have It Thrift Store notified the Desert Manna Board of Directors Thursday that the thrift store would have to move out by Feb. 28, said Sheri Randolph, the shelter's executive director.

Once Desert Manna moves out, Support Our Troops Thrift Store, currently at the Barstow Mall, is planning to move in, said store founder Dave Epstein.

Manna Gotta Have It opened its doors at 325 East Main Street March 1, 2010. The board is still discussing whether or not it can move the thrift store to a new location, Randolph said.

"We definitely still want to have a thrift store, we just got to find out what our different options are," she said Friday. "We just found out yesterday."

Desert Manna pays about $1,500 a month in rent for the store, said Steven Agcaoili, who has been store manager for about six months. The board had been speaking with the building's owner about decreasing the rent, but the landlord didn't want to lower the rent, he said. Desert Manna's lease will be up March 1.

Since Desert Manna's thrift store opened last year hundreds of low-income families have been able to receive free clothing through vouchers the shelter distributes, Agcaoili said. Court-ordered community service workers gain retail experience. Customers also come from as far away as Apple Valley on a weekly basis to shop at the store, Agcaoili said.

"It's sad that we're going to have to close our doors," Agcaoili said. "I had people from all over Barstow come in here and tell me what a great store it is. I think it's helped a lot as far as bringing people to the old downtown area."

Support Our Troops it will relocate in the downtown area at the beginning of March, said Robert Hernandez. Hernandez, who is currently a member of the Support Our Troops Board of Directors, had managed Desert Manna's thrift store. He was fired from that job in September.

Support Our Troops Thrift Store was founded by a group of local veterans in November 2009. The veterans' current location at the Barstow Mall is about 2,800 square feet, Epstein said. The space Desert Manna is currently in is about 7,500 square feet.

"They need a bigger place," Epstein said, adding that even though he is the founder he doesn't run the thrift store. "There's going to be a lot of parking out behind the store and handicapped people can come right in the front of the store."

The property owner, Jeffrey Lidman, was not available for comment Friday.

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4123 or jcejnar@desertdispatch.com