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JLNO volunterr Mrs. E. N. Kearney Jr. at the Thrift Shop on Bourbon Street. Photo submitted by: JLNO archivesWhat is in store for the future of Bloomin’ Deals? It’s been the question on the minds of its members and of the larger community for months, and after the official unveiling of the new plan, the Junior League of New Orleans finally has an answer. The Bloomin’ Deals Legacy Project presents a fresh concept for the time-honored fundraiser that blends community partnerships to offer a new path forward, since the thrift shop on Freret Street was sold in August 2018. To many, Bloomin’ Deals has been JLNO’s signature program, and it’s hard to imagine the League without a brick-and-mortar shop. The thrift store had been a fixture in the city since it opened on Royal Street over nine decades ago in 1927. Its legacy continued with the move to Freret Street in 1960, where the store served the surrounding community until its doors closed last year. It picked up its clever name in the 1980s — a play on the famous department store Bloomingdale’s — signaling the high-quality inventory for which it was known. As time passed, the League saw a need to adapt the thrift store’s existing business model. The rise of “fast fashion” opened up wider access to quality clothing at low prices. The daily responsibilities of running a business — historically done almost entirely by League volunteers — were soon falling on Bloomin’ Deals’ full-time employees as more and more JLNO women entered the workforce. With the ever-growing opportunities afforded to the modern League member, the retail training gained by working shifts in the thrift store was not as highly valued. Revenue was stagnant, and member satisfaction with Bloomin’ Deals was declining while local interest in buying the property was growing. League President Alice Glenn stressed member feedback was integral in the over two-year evolution of Bloomin’ Deals' future plans. A taskforce was formed, created ad-hoc groups to foster ideas and sent out surveys to JLNO members. They wanted to know what it was about the beloved program that accounted for its decades of success. According to Alice, members were proud of the legacy of the early, impact-focused store. While it was important the new program generate some revenue for the League’s other philanthropies, it was critical that its mission remained aligned with the League’s values. Responses also indicated they desired efficiency — a smaller footprint for a bigger good — and that JLNO continue to elevate rather than duplicate local non-profits. Working with Trepwise, a local consulting firm specializing in fostering new organizations and businesses, the taskforce created a rubric through which they could grade potential ideas and partnerships including the criteria the League values most — efficiency, need-driven, improved member satisfaction and prioritizing impact over revenue. The Bloomin’ Deals Legacy Project commences its 1-year pilot program with the start of the next League year on June 1, 2019. It was born out of this comprehensive evaluation process and is comprised of new partnerships with 3 local programs — SWAP, Dress for Success and the Youth Empowerment Program. Partnerships with these programs will work together to fill the needs left by the sale and shuttering of the thrift shore while still marking a path forward for Bloomin’ Deals. Fortuitously, all three programs were founded and/or are run by women. As the League looks ahead to the coming months and years, both its members and the community it serves agree that Bloomin’ Deals is an institution with a beloved legacy which deserves a future in New Orleans — beyond a physical address.