Another town's treasure

What's New Rummage Shop brings community together

— There is an old wooden dulcimer collecting dust on the shelf of the What's New Rummage Shop. There is a pair of 1970s-style, Swiss-made hiking boots that have sunken to the bottom of a box of shoes. There are old manual typewriters and an 8-track collection fit to throw anyone back a few decades.

Oak Creek historian Mike Yurich was glowing when he walked out of the store on Thursday.

"There are so many treasures in there," he said. "And it's a good excuse to get out of town."

Yurich walks the four miles to Phippsburg from his home in Oak Creek almost every Thursday. He pokes through the four buildings of furniture, clothes and miscellany and then catches a ride back to town.

A hallway smells of musty books -- everything from Kurt Vonnegut to Susan Pouter.

"This is where I come before I go on a Peace Corps assignment to stock up," said Yurich, a veteran of six Peace Corps tours.

The What's New Rummage Shop is open one day a week, on Thursdays. Most items cost a quarter, sometimes a dollar. And each Thursday is a major event for shoppers from Yampa to Craig.

"Even tourists stop," volunteer Neva Ebaugh said. "The same people come year after year, but there are also new faces every week."

"If you wait long enough, anything you could possibly want will come through here," volunteer Verna Whaley said.

As customers walk through the aisles, the quarters add up. All the money goes back into the town of Phippsburg, which owns the shop.

Phippsburg, five blocks of unincorporated town along Colorado Highway 131, has no government, answering instead to the county.

Because there are no town taxes and no town budget, all infrastructure costs must be covered creatively. The town uses the shop's proceeds to pay for park upkeep and the electric bills for the 17 streetlights in Phippsburg.

Originally, when the streetlights went in, local families adopted lights -- three families to a light -- but new lights and new residents complicated the process, and the town was briefly threatened with having its lights shut off.

Paying one bill with store proceeds turned out to be the best solution.

Phippsburg resident Sharon Ebaugh volunteers in the store but also takes care of the town park. She mows and keeps the sprinkler system running.

"She lives next door, and the responsibility just sort of dropped in her lap," Whaley said.

The leftover funds go back into maintaining the building that houses What's New, an empty Baptist church.

What's New opened in an old schoolhouse in the 1950s, run by Neva Ebaugh's mother and Lila Rider. In 1972, the schoolhouse was destroyed in a fire and the community's thrift store moved to the empty church on Third Street. The church building functions as the town's community center as well as home to the thrift store that is its sole source of income.

In the past, Phippsburg held regular dinners in the space, but "we haven't had dinners for years," Whaley said.

This year, What's New hosted a Christmas celebration complete with a visit from Santa Claus. They sponsored the town's Christmas Lighting Contest. Phippsburg's Boy Scout troop, the Oak Creek Hockey Club and the Yampa and Oak Creek fire protection boards use the building for free.

The center is home to the Bridge Club and the Handy Lads and Lassies 4-H Club.

When the What's New volunteers arrive on Thursday morning, boxes of clothes, toys and books are usually waiting by the door to be sorted.

"We're not quite sure where it all comes from," Neva Ebaugh said. Not everything fits on the shelves of What's New. Overflow is boxed up and driven to Denver's Salvation Army by a volunteer.

"It takes the cooperation of a lot of people to keep this going," Ebaugh said.

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