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An Amherst building that once housed a Barnes & Noble store will become a Salvation Army thrift shop.

Maj. Leonard Gower, director of the Salvation Army's Adult Rehabilitation Center, confirmed Monday that the organization has purchased the long-vacant building at 1089 Niagara Falls Blvd. for $1.5 million.

"The thrift stores are the main source of income for the rehab center," Gower said, "so it is important that they are in locations where they attract customers."

Gower said plans call for opening the new outlet by the end of March or early April.

He also said the new location might lead to some changes in the Salvation Army's local line-up of thrift outlets.

"We now have 11 thrift stores, some of which were opened 10 or more years ago, and neighborhoods change. The stores' income levels drop, and we have to make changes," Gower said.

"There probably will be a couple of closings," he added, "but those decisions are still being determined."

The rehab center, located at 1080 Military Road in the Town of Tonawanda, opened in 1937, specifically for men with drug and alcohol problems, Gower said. He took over the center three years ago.

"Aside from a few private donations, the thrift stores support the $1.5 million annual budget of the center, which employs 115 people," Gower said.

"We do have 84 beds, but right now, only 60 of them are being used, probably because of other rehab programs that are not as demanding as our program."

Gower said that the men who enter the Salvation Army program -- usually through referral by detoxification clinics -- are expected to engage in a 40-hour weekly work-therapy program."

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