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About the ReStore
The History of the ReStore
by Fred Marx
It’s considerably smaller than the big-box stores, has an unpredictable inventory, and is the first place Robert Mulherin goes for his home improvement projects. “The prices here are significantly lower than anyplace else.”
It’s a tax write-off, if he wants it. Allan Chrisley just donated some furniture. “The couches will sell inexpensively to someone who needs them. Everybody wins.”
Suresh Nagappan has also brought in some gently-used goods, and is walking out with hardware, hinges and knobs. “It’s nice to re-use stuff,” he says. “It’s better for the environment.”
And Marcia Handy can scarcely contain her happiness. On this day, she and her mom have found two like-new ceiling fans.
These Triad homeowners are among the many frequent visitors to ReStore in Greensboro; some coming as often as twice a week.
The ReStore has been open for business in Greensboro since 2000. In retail terms, the store has been a great success as both a benefit to its community and as a source of revenue to its parent organization, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro. It’s considerably smaller than the big-box stores, has an unpredictable inventory and has served as a premiere stop for many local shoppers for over a decade.
Around the same time many chain stores found financial hardship, Habitat Greensboro’s board of directors was examining new ways of bringing revenue to their organization. Succeeding in that meant more families could enjoy home ownership; entire neighborhoods would be invigorated by the injection of good will. Bill Gault was among the directors at the time, and he was invited to join a committee charged with creating a new type of home improvement center. There were already ReStore outlets sprinkled around the country, each enjoying varying degrees of success. Bill recalls fine-tuning the Greensboro ReStore’s mission: “We make money to help families. We do this by selling recycled goods. Plain and simple.” Bill would soon become the Director of ReStore Operations.
With a scope of need that large, a business model was developed for the ReStore that tapped into the generosity of the community, businesses and manufacturers. The objective: bring quality home goods in, and sell them at an appealingly-low price. Before the model could be deployed, a building had to be found. High Point Road has been a major traffic and retail corridor for several decades.
In the beginning, the High Point Road location seemed like too much of a good thing. It was 38,500 square feet more than the inventory-on-hand (which was zero). So they started small by building movable interior walls that could be pushed outward as volume grew. Then, Habitat Greensboro used its community connections to get the word out that the ReStore was open for business.
The response was almost instantaneous. Pickup trucks laden with furniture began backing up to the ReStore’s loading dock. Panel trucks containing all manner of heavy goods, retired hotel furnishings, lighting and appliances filled the store’s space. Semis from area manufacturers rolled in with cabinetry and other construction materials. Some of this had been made and donated for Habitat Greensboro homes, some made for distribution to other Habitat affiliates. Other materials were made just for Greensboro’s ReStore and customers immediately discovered the value of shopping there.
Habitat Greensboro’s President and Executive Director, Winston McGregor, calls her organization “a movement; a cause; a transformational force made up of volunteers, homeowners and neighborhoods. It’s a Christian ministry working with and for people of all faiths.” Her operation is no small thing. Some 400 homes are involved, with over $10 million in assets. “We get our funding mostly through traditional philanthropy; then comes revenue from the ReStore, from mortgage payments, and a little bit from the government.”
The movable walls soon met the exterior walls. Today, the ReStore can boast of 38,000 square feet of showroom space. Volunteers use the remaining 500 square feet to rehabilitate computers, to prepare washers, dryers and other major appliances to be moved to the sales floor. These volunteer-prepared items will soon walk out the door with a 14-day guarantee attached to them. “Volunteers are the secret sauce that makes everything work. They’re our greatest asset. We couldn’t do any of this without them,” McGregor said.