Doug Coulter, a home renovator from Millville, happened into the ReStore building last week during its second-anniversary festivities.
“This is a great place,” he said. “I’ve found windows and doors here at bargain prices, and everyone is very friendly and cooperative.”
Nodding toward a garden hose reel he just purchased, Coulter added, “If you find something you like, you’d better get it then and there, because it won’t be around long.”
The ReStore occupies the century-old, brick icehouse building on Depot Street in downtown Georgetown. It is a thrift store offering new and gently used donated appliances, building materials, furniture, rugs and tools. All the proceeds benefit Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.
Diane Koch, an official with First Shore Federal bank and an ambassador from the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, was on the ReStore’s planning committee. She, along with Habitat board member and Discover Bank representative Amy Walls, is proud of the ReStore’s success and is particularly pleased with the committee’s choice of Denise Jackson as its manager.
“She’s done a fabulous job. She just took the ball and ran with it,” said Koch.
Jackson, a long-time Lewes resident, had no retail experience when she was hired, but she had become intrigued with the Habitat organization after volunteering on the second “Women-Build” project in the county.
“I was a financial advisor, working independently, and wanted a change,” she said. “Habitat’s mission of building simple, decent and affordable housing, in partnership with local families, appealed to me.”
With a handful of dedicated volunteers, Jackson quickly turned the empty cavernous building into an inviting place to browse or shop with ease. Helping her now are a couple of paid part-time employees and AmeriCorps-assigned staff, as well as a bevy of enthusiastic volunteers.
“We are a volunteer-driven business,” said Jackson. “Volunteers are the heart and soul of our success, and we can always use additional help. They are involved with customer service, administrative and marketing activities and even driving our box-truck for pick-ups.”
Pick-ups are provided for donated items from businesses and individuals across the county.
“We try to make sure that the items are in good condition and saleable before we make a run,” said truck driver Adam Tull.
Offering an example of a productive pick-up, Tull recalled a home owner who had bought five Andersen windows that were the wrong kind.
“He decided to donate them rather than return them. They sell at retail for about $600 each, and we sold them for $120 apiece. It was a win-win for everyone.”
Tull also noted that the ReStore is a “green” business, as donated materials escape area landfills.
Eric Logullo had sales experience before working part time at the ReStore.
“I help new volunteers learn how to best display our products,” he said. “I also help their sales skills by suggesting they put themselves in customers’ shoes and think through all their needs for a project.”
Anna Edmanson is a frequent ReStore shopper. She works close by, in Georgetown, and likes to pop in on her lunch hour. On this occasion she found a handsome table lamp for $9.
“Of course I like the prices, but the best part is being known by name as a customer by people like Eric and Paul,” she said, referring to Paul Becker, who is an AmeriCorps worker on a one-year assignment. “And it’s nice to know my purchases support a good cause.”
It is because of the cause that Charlene McNeal calls Habitat “a real blessing.” She is a single mother who was in an abusive relationship before finding herself in a Georgetown crisis shelter.
“I remember walking into the ReStore to find out what it was all about. They encouraged me to fill out an application for a house. Last May, after Habitat checked my credit and employment history, I was accepted,” she explained .”I’m in line for one of the foreclosed houses through the NSP (Neighborhood Stabilization Program). Now, whenever I’m not working at my paying job or praying in thanks, I’m doing my ‘sweat equity’ time with Habitat.” (“Sweat equity” is the 250 hours of service required from all Habitat housing recipients.)
When she’s not in the ReStore, Jackson spends time going to different business and community groups, helping to promote its work and that of Habitat. On Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., she will be participating in the Volunteer Fair at Ocean View Town Hall on Central Avenue.
“I want people to know that we need their donations and would love some of their time. And I want the communities and businesses at the southern end of the county to know that they were the ones who helped us most in the beginning and we are so grateful.”
The ReStore can be reached by calling (302) 855-1156. Sussex Habitat’s Web site is at www.sussexcountyhabitat.org.