By Brian Conlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
7:15 PM EDT, August 30, 2011
Saturday morning's dark, foreboding skies and heavy gusts that marked the coming of Hurricane Irene didn't deter customers eager to take advantage of store-wide, grand opening sale that knocked the prices down by 20 percent.
Within 30 minutes of its 9 a.m. grand opening Aug. 27, the Chesapeake affiliate of Habitat for Humanity's newest ReStore had several dozen people waiting to check out.
Alex Fowler made the 30-minute drive from his home in Bowie to take advantage of the sale.
"It's good to buy things at a discounted price because of the economy," Fowler said as he rolled a computer chair and carried a lighting fixture to his car.
Those two items likely wouldn't be the last of his purchases.
"Really, I'm just going to put this in my car and going back in," he said. "I didn't get a chance to walk through the whole store."
Habitat for Humanity's ReStore outlets sell donated new and used home improvement items, including furniture, appliances and building materials, at reduced prices.
Profits from the sales are used in Habitat for Humanity projects, said the group's ReStore director, Tim Kenney.
"(These stores) have really proved to be a successful fundraising model across the nation with other Habitat affiliates," Kenney said. "It provides a steady cash flow throughout the year. And in the end, we're able to turn over our profits to the affiliate to build homes."
Among the items displayed in the 10,000-square-foot store were leather recliners and cabinets. The store also had a wide selection of used items, such as rugs, a stainless steel refrigerator and light fixtures.
Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake has already received great returns from its two other ReStores in Pasadena and Dundalk, which opened in 2003 and 2007, respectively.
In 2010, the two stores combined to make $1.2 million, about 33 percent more than what they did in the average year, said Halethorpe ReStore manager Jimmy Motsay.
"The big uptick is because people are trying to find an alternative to the major home improvement retailers," said Motsay, whose store sits practically in the shadow of the huge Home Depot store on Washington Boulevard a short distance away. "We expect sales to continue to climb."
Kenney said that the Halethorpe's first-year goal is to simply turn a profit without hurting the stores in Pasadena and Dundalk.
"The first year of any ReStore, you're just trying to make a profit at all," said Kenney, who added that the stores draw shoppers from all socioeconomic classes. "If we can accomplish that, and not be a drag on the profits of the other two stores, that will be a success."
Kenney said successful stores can also make a positive environmental impact.
Last year, he estimated that the Pasadena and Dundalk stores kept more than 500 tons of home improvement goods out of the dump.
"We're providing an outlet for people to donate things, rather than putting them in the dump," he said.
Bud Lucas, of Halethorpe, found some treasure in the form of a jewelry box.
"I'll tell you they got some very, very good things in there for a price you can't beat," Lucas said.
Lucas said he plans to send his grandson, who works in construction, over to the store to pick out a back door to then install on Lucas' home.
"It's great to have this store here. We need something like this in Halethorpe," Lucas said. "The furniture is so reasonable. It really is."