Habitat ReStore remodeling to improve customer experience

By: Jodelle Greiner, The Brookings Register

BROOKINGS – You never know what you’ll find at the Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore, but it will be easier to find and there will be more of it now that the place is being remodeled, said Dan McColley, executive director of Habitat.

The ReStore opened in 2007 in a former mini-storage facility at 917 W. Highway 14 bypass and helps the organization fulfill its mission.

“The purpose of the ReStore is to raise funds to support the Habitat mission of creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live. The store’s primary purpose is to raise additional funds for our home buildings and home renovations programs,” McColley said.

The ReStore has remained a very well-kept secret. McColley would like folks to get into the habit of coming to the ReStore first for all their household needs.

“I hope they continue to discover us,” he said. “We’re a great low-cost furniture and appliance store, we’re a great low-cost hardware store, but we’re also the kind of place to come and find something you might want to up-cycle or the weird, random antique for the discerning eye … we have that mix.”

Better design, better service

When Habitat opened the ReStore a decade ago, the mini-storage facility was functional. That changed over the years, McColley said.

“It fulfilled its purpose, but we were growing out of the available space and needed to maximize the square footage,” he said.

It was also an out-of-the-way location, which made drawing donors and customers a challenge.

When McColley took over as executive director about two years ago, he looked at their options. One goal was to eventually combine the ReStore and the Habitat offices, which are now on Ninth Street.

“I looked at every piece of available commercial property in Brookings and quickly came to the conclusion that … we were going to have to divert over 10 families’ worth of resources” to move, McColley said. “That is not a choice the board or I wanted to make. Our purpose and mission are to give ownership opportunities to families that otherwise wouldn’t be able to have them. We didn’t want to take the resources of 10 families to change our address.”

Since they owned the property on the bypass, they decided to improve what they had by remodeling the building and maximizing the sales floor.

The only tenant they had was Barrel of Fun Chips, which moved into a space in the other building on the property.

“We lost some space over there, but we gained it over here. With the reorganization, we’re probably going to gain 1,500 square feet,” McColley said. “The real gain is 1,250 of that didn’t used to be air-conditioned or heated or well-lit.”

Their processing room is now smaller to give them more room on the selling floor.

“We removed one wall, relocated another. We’ve shrunk the breakroom, relocated the service counter, added some windows,” McColley ran down the list.

The improvements include being compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The bathroom is ADA compliant. We now have a power assist door, so they can touch a pad and the door will open for them. That was important,” he said.

Although they are in the throes of construction, McColley made clear the fact the ReStore is taking donations and open to customers. The remodeling is a lot of work, but in the end he believes it will help them better serve their customers.

The circle begins

The process starts with people dropping off all kinds of household goods, like furniture, tables, lamps, knick-knacks, appliances, sofas and chairs; construction supplies like lumber, paint, barn wood, hardware, carpet, building supplies, and even the kitchen sink.

“The vast majority of everything that we sell has been donated by individuals from their homes,” McColley said.

People, who are remodeling or updating their own homes or are down-sizing for an older relative, can donate things like cabinets or light fixtures, dishes or appliances that are in working order. McColley said businesses updating their décor donate office furniture or even doors and windows, or hotels donate bedroom and lobby furniture.

“It’s nice to be able to see things not end up in a landfill, to see things repurposed and re-used,” said Randy Grimsley, ReStore manager.

Accepting donations

Donations can be dropped off at the store from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, and 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

There is a brand-new canopy that folks can drive under to keep the rain and snow off their donations.

The ReStore also picks up donations.

“We have a big yellow box truck with a hydraulic lift,” McColley said.

Pick-up is free, but please call ahead. The number is 605-697-2540.

“A week to 10 days is generally what we need to get on the schedule,” McColley said.

Please have the donated item on the first floor or in the garage.

“If it is upstairs or in the basement, whoever is picking it up can use their judgement as to (if) they (can) safely get it out of your home … because we don’t want to damage somebody’s house and we don’t want to damage a member of our staff,” McColley said.

They don’t accept everything, such as appliances that don’t work.

“We try to refuse those at the donation door,” McColley said.

Donated items are cleaned and tested to make sure they work, then they are put on the floor to sell.

“Less than 5 percent doesn’t sell,” Grimsley said, adding that sales are about $250,000 annually.

Shopping experience

Since they never know what may be donated, the inventory they can offer the public is ever-changing, has a very wide range, and is steeply discounted.

“Miss a day, miss a deal – the inventory changes that quickly,” is McColley’s motto. “We don’t have a warehouse where we can order more … what comes in is what we have for sale.”

Someone may donate inexpensive items like drawer knobs, or they might donate antiques.

“We’ve gotten donations of really expensive art,” Grimsley said.

They’ve had dining sets worth thousands of dollars that sell for hundreds of dollars.

“We’ve got a $400 pineapple light; it’s worth three times that,” McColley said. “That’s the kind of thing that people coming in would not think is gonna be here.”

People buy some things because it’s just what they were looking for and others take items home and make something else out of them – and the tools with which to do it.

When people ask if the Re-Store has a certain item, like refrigerators, McColley’s answer is often “Not right now, but that might change by the end of the day,” McColley said.

“When I put (photos online) of the renovation in progress, people always comment … ‘how much is that desk in the background? And is it still there?’ Our answer’s always the same: ‘The door opens at 10 o’clock. If you’re interested, you should probably be there,’” McColley said.

And people do take him up on that offer, showing up several times a week to make sure they don’t miss something they want.

Landlords also shop there, helping the environment and contributing to affordable housing.

Change is good

The renovation is a lot of work, but it all adds up to one thing: helping others, whether that’s families getting an affordable house or helping a customer find that one thing they’re wanting.

McColley is looking forward to the end of the renovation.

“Most of the dirty work is over,” he said. “We really are now just to the finishing touches of paint, window trim, those kinds of things.”

When things settle back to normal, the ReStore will have more room to carry additional stuff and organize it into departments for convenience.

“We’ll fill the store up again,” he said.

“We are hosting the Chamber of Commerce membership mixer in July; that will be our party,” to celebrate the new ReStore, McColley said.

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