L.A. ROAD Thrift Store promotes nonprofit community outreach

L.A. ROAD staff member Megan Kurtz works in merchandising on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. River Lisius/The Occidental

L.A. ROAD Thrift Store is a nonprofit discount clothing store on Eagle Rock Boulevard whose motto is to serve families in the surrounding community, according to store manager Matt Troyer. Troyer said Jared Stoltfuz founded the store four years ago in January 2016 and wanted to create an organization that would bring business to the surrounding community and provide a safe space for residents in the area. Lindsey Miller, one of the store managers, said some of L.A. ROAD’s goals are to reach people, build relationships and show Jesus to their community.

“We treat people the way they want to be treated,” Troyer said. “We show respect, love.”

Sara Carr, a graphic designer for Occidental College, said she started shopping secondhand after learning more about fast fashion and that thrifting makes her feel good about where she is spending her money. According to Carr, L.A. ROAD is one of the few secondhand stores that carries plus-size clothing — she can rarely find sizes larger than a 10 or 12 at corporate thrift stores such as Goodwill. Carr said she appreciates L.A. ROAD’s community outreach events because they can be helpful for people in need.

“They are very welcoming and very inclusive. Everything was 50 percent off and you got free food with the purchase,” Carr said. “When you’re a family of three and you’re low on money, like, what a great deal to go shopping and then get free tacos.”

L.A. ROAD Thrift Store offers a variety of clothing and home goods on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. River Lisius/The Occidental

Miller said L.A. ROAD does community outreach with local organizations that provide help for the area. One of those organizations is Miry’s List, a nonprofit that works to resettle refugee families in Eagle Rock, according to its website. Miry Whitehill, founder of Miry’s List, said L.A. ROAD has worked with the organization since it started three and a half years ago. Whitehill said L.A. ROAD donated bedding and towels for Syrian refugee families when Miry’s List first started and continues to give families from Miry’s List discounts and store credit. L.A. ROAD should be a business model for community outreach across the country, Whitehill said.

“Imagine if all or half of the companies in the United States did what they do. They [L.A. ROAD] are demonstrating what a partnership in the community looks like for a small business,” Whitehill said. “I think it’s inspiring. I encourage Oxy students to get involved in Miry’s List and to support businesses like L.A. ROAD.”

According to Miller, most of the team that created L.A. ROAD are Mennonites. Mennonite Christians are Anabaptists who believe people should be voluntarily baptized as adults. According to Mennonite Church USA, Anabaptists focus largely on following Jesus Christ and consider Jesus to be the sole source of authority for the Christian Church. L.A. ROAD Thrift Store was named after a small East Los Angeles Mennonite church by the same name, according to Troyer.

Longtime customers Phyllis Hollman (left) and Martha Watts (right) enjoy their afternoon shopping at L.A. ROAD on Eagle Rock Boulevard in Los Angeles. Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. River Lisius/The Occidental

“We’re not here to push an agenda. I might have some opinions and beliefs that I think are right, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to sit here and tell people what I believe,” Troyer said. “There’s a lot of commands, but love is the central focus of the Bible.”

Troyer, who is originally from Pennsylvania, said he moved to Los Angeles to help with the founding of L.A. ROAD. According to Miller, Stoltfuz recruited people from all over the country to build the store from the ground up — she moved from Ohio expecting hard work and long hours on the job. Now the store hires locally in order to provide jobs for people in the community, according to Miller.

Phyllis Hollman, a 14-year resident of Eagle Rock, said she started regularly going to the store almost a year ago, and that almost everything in her house is from L.A. ROAD. According to Hollman, her grandmother and her sister ask her if they can go to L.A. ROAD when they visit. Hollman said she calls L.A. ROAD the “store” because it is right down the road from her.

“They always welcome you with a smile. I just feel like I’ve been knowing them for awhile. They’re like my friends at the store,” Hollman said. “They always say ‘Good morning.’ They’re just really nice people.”