If thrift stores are supposed to cool off as the economy warms, Goodwill Easter Seals of Minnesota is ignoring conventional wisdom. The nonprofit that prepares people for meaningful jobs will open its new flagship store Saturday in St. Paul, doubling the size and number of employees from its previous location.
“We wanted a bigger presence in St. Paul to serve more people and drive more revenue,” said Ann Marie Courchene, regional director of Goodwill Easter Seals Minnesota. The flagship store is “where our home office is, and our corporate office was full.”
Goodwill is riding the wave of popularity of thrift store shopping nationwide. Consumers are discovering not only the deals but also more inviting decor and better merchandise.
Goodwill’s retail revenue has nearly doubled since 2010 from $38.4 million to $71.6 million in fiscal 2014. The charity now operates 36 Goodwill locations in Minnesota, plus two Second Debut upscale boutiques and Gina + Will teen/young adult fashion in Dinkytown.
Antoinette Boxer of St. Paul shops thrift stores in Unidale and Sunray shopping centers and on Rice Street because they’re becoming more like department stores. As she was shopping for the last time in the former flagship store on Fairview Avenue, she said of the new store: “Having two floors with twice the amount of goods will be awesome.”
At the new Goodwill store, the stark white windowless walls and gray carpet of older designs have been scrapped for alternating splashes of orange, lime green and yellow and plenty of windows to let the sunshine in. The second level is stocked with clothing and accessories for women, men and children. The first floor features home and office furniture, bedding, seasonal merchandise for Easter, kitchenware, electronics and tools. Some end caps sport new merchandise purchased for the store such as snack foods, sheet sets and kitchen utensils.
In another nod to making the new store as convenient as possible for its customers, a pop machine stands near the exit.
“Is there bottled water in there?” asked President and CEO Michael Wirth-Davis as he gave a tour of the new store. “We want to give people a healthy option, too,” he noted with a chuckle.
Wirth-Davis said pleasing the shopper with quality merchandise, a drive-through donation center, adequate parking and nice dressing rooms is important, but it’s all with a greater good in mind.
“The only reason that we have these stores is to serve more people and change lives,” he said.
In addition to the 14,500 square feet of sales space, the store also includes office space for mission services such as case management, job training and placement services. Office space at the former flagship site nearly a mile away still will be used.
Goodwill’s latest addition joins retail expansions by other Twin Cities charities. Arc’s Value Village doubled the size of its New Hope store in 2013 and opened a new Bloomington store in December. Hope Chest for Breast Cancer, Bridging and Salvation Army also have added stores in Bloomington.
Salvation Army is hoping to close the deal on a new store in St. Paul to open in the fall, said Tom Canfield, district manager for Twin Cities area Salvation Army stores. All of the metro stores and the St. Cloud location have been remodeled within the past years, and new stores have opened in Fridley and Hastings, as well. Last year, the charity converted the first floor of its flagship near downtown Minneapolis to a by-the-pound store where merchandise is sold in bulk for less than $1.50 per pound.
“It’s become very successful,” he said. “We’re able to sell lower-quality materials to the public and keep the items out of the waste stream.”
Goodwill recently added a by-the-pound store of its own. A second location opened in Brooklyn Park in February, and its longtime outlet at 2505 W. University Av. will move to the former flagship store on Fairview and University in April.
Donna Knicker, general manager of the new flagship store, is hoping for a big turnout on opening day. Employees will be giving away scratch cards at the entrance for additional discounts of 10 to 40 percent as an enticement.
“This new Goodwill location is a major win for the community,” she said.