Habitat ReStore Moves to New Facility

By Katie Scarvey, kscarvey@salisburypost.com

Coleman Emerson is a patient man.

The executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Rowan County spent five or six years searching for a new and larger space for Habitat’s ReStore operation. The store fairly quickly outgrew its original downtown location at 125 E. Innes St., which opened 13 years ago.

“It’s been a dream of Habitat for a number of years to expand the retail store,” Emerson said.

With the grand opening of a spacious new store Saturday, that dream has come to full fruition.

The new Habitat ReStore — huge, and bright blue, you can’t miss it — is at 1707 S. Main St. in what was most recently the Aluminum Fab and Railing manufacturing plant. The building was on the market for three years before Habitat acquired it, along with 1.7 acres of land, for $395,000, according to Emerson.

Habitat bid on the property in November 2008; an Phase 1 Environmental Study followed, which took about six months. The building officially changed hands in July of 2009, with financing from F&M Bank. Jarrell Contractors began renovations in October. Burl Brady served as architect and Alex Bost did the design work.

The new facility, 20,000 square feet in all, boasts 12,000 square feet of retail showroom.

Having that kind of room was important to Elizabeth Brady, director of store operations, who, along with store manager Regina Stansel, has had to deal with a lack of space in the old facility, which was cramped at only 2,500 square feet.

Cruising through the new store, you’ll see an extensive variety of merchandise, all neatly organized into sections.

“That’s a number 63 Smith Novelty Swivel Rocker,” Emerson says, in the tone of someone who knows, pointing to a vintage chair. He used to work for Bassett Furniture Industries and later owned and operated a furniture store in Salisbury.

Kitchen items, Christmas decorations, couches, beds, home entertainment centers, refrigerators, outdoor furniture, linens, art, paint: you can find it all here.

Shoppers may be surprised to discover that much of the merchandise is brand new, thanks to corporate donations. Lowe’s has donated, among other things, plastic storage containers, light fixtures, cleaning supplies, curtains and curtain rods. Not everything is practical, of course: you’ll also find things you want but don’t necessarily need: vintage comic books, an antique tin doll house, tribal-inspired art, old license plates.

Clothing is one thing you won’t find.

Habitat’s retail operation is particularly important in a tough economy.

“It’s a way to keep funding the projects when monetary donations are down,” Brady says.

“Items contributed locally help build a house locally,” Emerson adds. “Most everybody’s got something they want to get rid of.”

To date, Habitat has built 79 houses in Rowan County and the 80th is under construction.

While proceeds from the old store funded about one building project per year, Emerson projects that the new store will be able to fund three to four houses annually.

The new facility more than just retail space, however.

All of the organization’s operations have been consolidated under one roof, including the staff offices, which used to be on Depot Street.

The new location will make it easier to solicit applications from new homeowners, Emerson said.

The new site is more volunteer-friendly as well, with a break-room and lockers.

Since Habitat is volunteer-driven, according to Emerson, that’s important. “We’ve got a lot of great volunteers that we can’t do without,” he says. The parking area is spacious, and Brady particularly likes that the lot offers access from two different streets and is easy to reach from Jake Alexander Boulevard. Habitat has recently acquired a new forklift to help process donations, particularly in the corporate stockroom. The new set-up facilitates unloading 18-wheelers on the loading dock.

A drive-up donation area makes drop-offs convenient for individual donors.

The store will continue its practice of picking up large items.

Brady points out that the store accepts construction materials, including lumber, cabinets, countertops, bathtubs, sinks — “anything in useable condition,” she says.

Habitat staff members have found it gratifying to transform a vacant building and improve the neighborhood.

“We liked that we could renovate an existing building and repurpose it,” Brady says.

Emerson agrees.

“This area will be enhanced by this property,” he says. “Salisbury will be enhanced.”

The Woodson Foundation has given Habitat a grant to help support the new store, and Emerson hopes additional grants are in the offing.

He doesn’t want anyone to forget the store’s ultimate purpose: “The entire reason to do this is to help build houses for Rowan County families,” he says.

A dedication service for the new facility will take place Saturday at 8:45 a.m.. with doors opening by 9 a.m. From 10 a.m.-2 p.m., free hot dogs, hamburgers and Cheerwine will be offered while supplies last.

Store hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Donations may be dropped off during normal business hours.

Call the ReStore at (704) 642-1222 for more information.

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