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Sunday, June 14, 1970 THE KEY WEST CITIZEN

It's really true -- It's a 'free store'

free store photo from a very old newspaper clipping

NEW 'FREE STORE' AT 114 OLIVIA OPEN 24 HOURS
. . . Ron Kumpf makes no profit on the store whatsoever


By MELVIN HANKS

Usually when someone walks into a store, sees something he likes and walks out of store without paying for it, the manager would have the customer arrested for shoplifting, and the person would face an unpleasant court session before an unhappy judge.
That is, it's that way in most stores, but not the newest place of business in Key West.
You can walk in, get what you want and walk out without paying a dime.
The new business is called a "free store" and is unique to the Key West area. Set up by young Ron Kumpf * at an old Conch house at 114 Olivia St., the store is opened 24 hours a day, and there are no attendents. The place is empty except for clothing, records, non-perishable food, bedding, kitchen utencils, radios, books and magazines.
"I just opened the store Sunday", Kumpf said, "and already people have come in and helped themselves to several things."
The purpose of the store, according to Kumpf, is to help the community.
"There is no profit involved and the merchandise is donated by people who are tired of certain things they own. They bring them in here for other people to enjoy them, and they probably take something that they need."
Kumpf said that many of the people at Fogarty House helped him set up the shop on Olivia Street and donated several items now "on sale".
If anyone stands to lose money on this venture it is Kumpf, who is paying $20 rent on the house per month. He said he might put up a donation box in the house for anyone wishing



to contribute to the rent and the continuation of the "free store".

He added hastily that the landlord knows all about the store and approves of this idea to improve the community.
There have been several children's items in the store, but these were quickly snapped up by the youth of the neighborhood. Other such items are expected to be donated soon.
Although the idea of a "free store" is unique to this area, other cities in the United States have been the base for sprouting stores of free exchange. The most popular stores have been in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
There is one store on New York's lower East Side that is a "crash pad' similar to a "free store". However, the difference is that the young people are welcome to stay for a couple of days at the "crash pad" when they can't find any other place to stay.
Kumpf emphasizes that 114 Olivia St. is not meant to be a place where people can spend the night, but where goods are exchanged.
It has been suggested that many people would feel unconfortable just walking into a store and taking out whatever they want.
But the operator of Key West's "free store" thinks that a service like this is needed in the community, and that people will come to the store and feel "natural" about taking things out without paying for them.
"We're not competing with any other business in Key West, so we should be pretty well received," Kumpf * said.


*alias - 'Matchbox' Ron
* later alias - Ron 'Noodleman' Carter


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