Most people don’t think much of bathrooms – until they need one right away. But this often undervalued room deserves further reflection. Not only do restrooms provide a private place to take care of business with dignity and grace, they also offer a brief respite from the chaos of our busy world and busy places.
Access to bathrooms is a social justice issue; recognizing and meeting the basic needs of people when they are at their most vulnerable. Many businesses and public places do not offer a public restroom and Community Closet recognizes that access to a quality bathroom is crucial. Bathrooms at thrift stores are frequently unavailable to shoppers. But Community Closet is no ordinary thrift store, we want our restrooms to be more than accessible and functional – we want them to be fun and welcoming as a demonstration of our respect for our customers.
So, each year we choose a new theme and redecorate the bathroom from floor to ceiling primarily with goods donated to the thrift store. The Community Closet’s bathroom themes have run the gamut of clowns, pets, Lawrence Welk, local musicians, Spanish conquistadors, to last year’s tongue in cheek ‘Exhibit: Montana Gallery,’ a “multi-media exhibit that explores the dialog and tension between Montana’s past and present by recontextualizing iconic images and symbols representing both domestic and wild themes.”
Caron Cooper, Community Closet CEO and founder, admits she may be biased since it was her idea, but her personal favorite remains the Lawrence Welk bathroom. “We got new pearlescent flooring for this theme, so it looked like a dance floor,” she said. “Because this theme was so great and we kept getting more related stuff, we kept this one up for two years.” A tourist who used to perform with Welk and had heard about the bathroom even came by to see for herself. “And she was right there in the old picture from the ‘Lawrence Welk Show’,” Cooper said. “It was great.”
The Community Closet bathroom has won so many awards as the best restroom in Park County that the category was discontinued because we had no competition. Our bathroom has become a local landmark; people go out of their way to check it out. “We have people who are only here in the summer and they drop by and make a beeline to the back to see what the new bathroom is,” said Cooper. Having a clean, well-lit bathroom is also an important quality indicator for businesses. “My Grandfather would rate the quality of a business based on how clean and nice their bathrooms were,” says shopper Kris King, “and I often think of his old-school wisdom when I encounter an exceptional loo.”
True to Community Closet’s skill at turning hidden resources into significant assets, they recognize that bathrooms are not just crucial but can be valuable. When the Shane Center was being remodeled as an arts venue, Cooper came up with the idea of funding the bathroom and providing continued support through bathroom advertising plaques.
The Community Closet recently granted the Danforth, the oldest arts venue in Park County, funds to update their dilapidated bathroom as a crucial step in upgrading the historic building.
You are invited to stop by the Community Closet, 416 East Park Street, to experience their newest bathroom décor which celebrates the peacefulness, beauty and solitude of winter. Community Closet is not only where fashion meets philanthropy, but where the restroom offers respite – and maybe even inspiration!