‘Back to Life’

Habitat ReStore helps revive dormant shopping center

By Amos Maki

Memphis resident Geraldine Harris has been shopping at the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis ReStore since it opened two years ago, finding discount prices and unique items she couldn’t locate anywhere else.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore staff member Oscar Bustamante (left) and volunteers Betty Brown and Dennis Danner help unload a new shipment of donated items at the store, 7136 Winchester Road. 

(Daily News/Brian Johnson)

“I get good bargains,” said Harris, who was shopping in the story once again this week. “I’ve been coming here so much my son called it Habitat for Harris.”

Since opening its doors two years ago the ReStore, which just celebrated its second anniversary, has become a haven for bargain hunters and do-it-yourself types working on historic home renovations.

“You’re not going to go to Lowe’s or Home Depot for that,” said Greg Webb, director of construction and retail operations at Habitat of Greater Memphis.”

In addition to offering discount goods to customers, the ReStore has served as a catalyst for the formerly abandoned The Market of Riverdale Bend retail center on Winchester.

“It’s all coming back to life,” said Dwayne Spencer, executive director for Habitat of Greater Memphis. “It was a dead zone when we moved here.”

Since the ReStore opened in 2011, Goodwill, DirtCheap and Planet Fitness have all signed leases at the retail center, breathing new life to an abandoned center that was becoming an eyesore. Smoothie King is moving into the old Starbucks location there, and across the street Fred’s has opened a new store.

“We feel like we’ve been a catalyst for reviving the whole area,” Spencer said. “It’s all coming back to life.”

All proceeds from the store go to support Habitat’s mission to work with families in need of adequate shelter to build simple, decent homes.

The store is a shopper’s paradise, including virtually everything you could think of, even the kitchen sink.

“I don’t think you could want an item we don’t have,” Webb said. “That old saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure – there’s a lot of truth to that and there’s a lot of unique items that come in.”

Individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses have all donated items and their time volunteering at the store.

Cadence Bank became the sole financial sponsor of the store, investing $60,000 over three years.

“In Memphis, we wanted to identify a way that we could contribute to Habitat’s long-term sustainability and enable the organization to increase its ability to provide affordable housing,” said Danielle Kernell, vice president of marketing and communications for Cadence. “The ReStore was a perfect match. We felt both Habitat’s mission and the innovative ReStore concept aligned well with our culture and our desire to strengthen local economies.”

The store is busting at the seams with clothing, electronics, house wares such as doors, windows, carpet, cabinets, dishes and appliances, and more.

The store has become one of the most profitable HabitRestores in the country. In the first year it opened the store totaled sales of $750,000 with a profit of $250,000. In its second year it registered sales of $820,000 with a profit of around $300,000. Store officials estimate that they could hit $950,000 in sales this year.

The store receives around a dozen truck deliveries each day and about the same amount of walk-up residents donating goods.

“We could be a million-dollar store,” Spencer said.

Spencer said the store has been popular with new and pop-up businesses that need office furnishings but can’t afford premium prices.

“We’re a catalyst for some of these smaller businesses that can’t afford new furniture to fill out their office space,” he said.

The store also offers a major environmental benefit, selling items that would have otherwise ended up at the dump.

“Since opening we’ve diverted 2 millions pound of stuff that would have been discarded,” Spencer said.

Goods are brought to the store’s donation center, where employees examine the items and prepare them for sale.

“It takes a lot of bodies to do what we do and there’s no chance we could do it without the volunteers,” Spencer said.