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Third Avenue Marketplace to open soon

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | March 14, 2024 1:08 AM

POST FALLS — Upgrades to the old Post Falls Senior Center building are nearing completion in preparation for the opening of one nonprofit where food bank and senior services will be provided in one location.

When it opens, it will no longer be the Post Falls Senior Center or the Post Falls Food Bank.

It will be the Third Avenue Marketplace.

“We’re not using the word ‘food bank’ anywhere in this building," Executive Director Leslie Orth said Wednesday during a tour of the facility. "I don’t like the name. I never have. We don’t do that. We are a little members-only market, I always tell people.”

The final day of operation for the food bank at its present site is Friday. It will be closed for two weeks as it moves into its new home.

"It’s kind of bittersweet," Orth said. "It’s been there for a long time, 17 years or something like that.”

Opening day for the marketplace is expected to be April 1.

“We are so excited," Orth said. "It’s surreal, it really is. We’ve needed this for so long.”

During the two-week closure, Lake City Center is preparing meals for the 70 Post Falls seniors who receive the home delivery service.

“They make the meals in that kitchen, our volunteer drivers are coordinated by our case manager here, she sets up the schedule, they go and get the meals and deliver them to our clients,” she said.

The Real Life Ministries Food Room is extending its hours during the closure to accommodate the 3,000 families the Post Falls Food Bank serves. Orth expressed her gratitude to Lake City Center and Real Life for assisting with this process.

"They're being amazing," she said.

Fresh paint, new offices, a loading dock, a freight elevator, a second warehouse floor for storage and more have been added to 1215 E. Third Ave. The new marketplace will also boast a 37-foot cooler for refrigerated goods.

“We’ll have beautiful glass doors," Orth said, "just like a regular little grocery store."

Shopping carts will be stored inside, rather than outside, as they were at the old food bank. A big checkout counter will add to the grocery store feel.

“I just know if I was coming here to get food, this would feel so good,” Orth said. “It reflects on the regard we have for the people we serve, that we’re wanting to make something beautiful and nice for them. We want to give you the nicest thing we can in this community.”

Post Falls Food Bank board member Kiwi Kirk said the amount of space will be much better for the "customers." The old food bank is 4,000 square feet; the new digs will be 9,000 square feet, not including the second story in the warehouse.

“Just purely the parking here is much better than down the street," Kirk said.

The south end of the Third Avenue Marketplace will be reserved for senior use.

“I know the seniors, when we were taking over and absorbing their programs, were very upset at the idea of losing the whole building," Orth said. "But this place will have a sign above it and it will say, ‘Third Avenue Café’ and the café is for the seniors.”

Linen tablecloths and fresh flowers will adorn the 30-seat dining area. Reservations will be encouraged, as space will be limited.

“They’ll need to call and say, ‘Yes, I will be there,’ and book a table," Orth said. "The chef will plate the meals in the kitchen and serve just like a restaurant dining room."

Activities will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays, including “sit and sip” events during which guests will hang out and enjoy coffee, tea, juice and pastries. Those mornings, a case manager will be present to visit with the seniors to see if any needs need filling.

"They can read a book, play checkers, socialize," Orth said. “We’re going to see if that works, if it’s something they like."

A pingpong table will be brought in, a smoothie bar will be prepared on certain days and a flex room for more intimate gatherings will be available for patron use.

“We definitely are having bingo on Wednesdays, it’s already on the schedule,” Orth said. “This room is going to be used for lots of things. It’s a good size space."

The venue will also be reservable for community groups and nonprofits at no cost, when available, Orth said.

It was announced in summer 2022 that the food bank and senior center would combine into one nonprofit in one space. It came to light at a time when the food bank began to burst at the seams and the senior center needed help.

The thought to combine the nonprofits came to Orth as she was driving down Third Avenue, the connecting route between the senior center and the soon-to-be former food bank.

"It definitely wasn’t my idea. It was definitely the Lord’s idea,” she said. “I went, ‘OK, that will work.’ I didn’t know how. Then I went to my board and they went, 'OK, let’s try that.’”

The senior center struggled after the COVID-19 pandemic and had financial troubles after a previous director embezzled money. Tough decisions were made, including closing its thrift store.

“They were in worse shape than we thought," Orth said. "They were like, ‘Yes, will you keep our programs?’ and I said, ‘We can, we will. Don’t know what that would look like, but yes.' And we just moved from there."

The merge took a long time just to plan, Orth said.

"We’ve been doing this for two years, easy, and tried to keep the programs running over here while we were over there, and it was pretty tough," she said. "But we learned a lot and we learned what’s most important and what we need to keep.”

Saving the $1.2 million to pay for the renovations also took some time.

"We saved and saved and saved for nine years," Orth said. "We saved pennies, because we wanted to do this out of pocket and not take a loan, which we did, but we’re almost $200,000 over that … We need to start finding money.”

Four-year food bank board member Mindy Hatcher said this move is an exciting one.

“It's fantastic," she said. "It's just going to be such a great, big space for so many more people in our community. That’s what I’m excited about.”

    Kiwi Kirk, left, chats Wednesday morning with Leslie Orth during a tour of the soon-to-open Third Avenue Marketplace in Post Falls, where the food bank and senior center will combine and operate under one nonprofit. “We are so excited,” Orth said. “It’s surreal, it really is. We’ve needed this for so long.”