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The Families of Carney Place: Chapter 7

Asheville’s ReStore is one key to Carney Place
Story and photos by Phil Kloer

 

Jessica Rogers, a college student in Asheville, North Carolina, loves coming to the Habitat ReStore to shop for quality used LPs.

 

The Asheville ReStore grosses about $2 million a year, which funds Habitat houses, including one at Carney Place.

 

John Bowers, an 87-year-old World War II veteran, volunteers 10 hours a week behind the scenes, repairing donated ceiling fans so they can be resold.

   

Jessica Rogers got a record player for Christmas — a turntable that only plays vinyl. And even though there is no shortage of vinyl record retail outlets in her hip hometown of Asheville, North Carolina, the 20-year-old college student frequently comes to the Asheville Habitat for Humanity ReStore to shop.

“I really like it here, and the selection is great. I’ve bought a lot here,” she said while thumbing through bins of carefully sleeved albums by her favorites ‘80s rock artists: Joan Jett, Pat Benatar, Heart.

Rogers’ purchases helped build Sharmain Thomas’ new house in Carney Place, the 22-home development that Asheville Habitat is building a few miles from the ReStore.

In January, Thomas and her son, Khalil, and daughter, Kaliyah, moved into a house funded entirely by the ReStore.

ReStores are an important part of many Habitat for Humanity affiliates. These stores accept donations of new and gently used building materials and household goods and sell them to the public at a fraction of the retail price.

Proceeds from the stores, which are staffed mainly by volunteers, further Habitat’s mission of building homes, communities and hope.

There are more than 840 ReStores in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and Europe’s first, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is scheduled to open soon. In 2011, U.S. ReStores raised enough money to build the equivalent of 770 homes.

With 40,000 square feet — about the size of a big chain grocery store — Asheville’s ReStore feels like a warehouse in some parts and a boutique in others. It offers a wide range of new and used items, from building supplies to books, bicycles to refrigerators, handmade quilts to chairs that a president might once have sat in.

The Grove Park Inn, an upscale hotel that has been host to several presidents, regularly donates its used leather chairs: “We sell them for $395, and they disappear,” said Jay Sloan, the ReStore’s general manager.

The Asheville ReStore holds an ongoing silent auction that does enough business to fund an entire house every year. Volunteer Alan Williams cherry-picks donations for the auction, which runs on two-week bidding cycles. Since it started in 2005, the auction has raised about $425,000. The ReStore itself grosses about $2 million a year.

The 10,000 or so customers like Jessica Rogers who shop at the store each month see only about half the space. There is a vast “backstage” operation for storage and repairs.

In one area backstage, John Bowers has his own little work booth, with a sign that reads “John ‘The Fan Man’ Bowers.” Bowers, an 87-year-old World War II veteran, comes in 10 hours a week to fix broken ceiling fans so they can be sold.

“The fans were piling up, and nobody was doing anything with them or interested in repairing them,” he said. “I started working on some and figured out how to do it. Now I got my own little office here.”

Sloan said the ReStore employs 15 full-time and eight part-time staff members, but the real engine is the roughly 80 volunteers who come in to work every week.

“More than anything else,” he said, “a store like this is a team effort.”

Read the entire story of The Families of Carney Place