“Here we are again!” laughed Paulette Smart, Habitat ReStore director whose army of volunteers has worked closely with Habitat for Humanity staff for the past few weeks to accomplish both feats.
Thursday’s ribbon cutting was not anticlimactic, but it did ring in recent memories from Oct. 11 when the local Habitat affiliate officially reopened its original ReStore at 300 Grove Ave., following an expansion that almost doubled the retailer’s floor space. The crowd then was just as big and equally as eager to storm the front door to take advantage of preholiday bargains.
To quote the legendary Yogi Berra, it was “... like déjá vu all over again.”
“It’s another great crowd ... we are just so blessed to be able to open this second donation center,” Smart said. “We’re also ecstatic that we’ve worked out a bus shuttle plan for this weekend.”
It’s a nice problem to have in the retail world — lots of excited customers, but not enough parking. For this reason, for the duration of the opening three-day weekend, the newest Habitat ReStore is working with the neighboring Bradley Square Mall to furnish a bus shuttle from the mall’s parking lot (near the Belk end) to the ReStore and back.
“The shuttle will haul the shoppers and their merchandise,” Smart said.
If not for the temporary shuttle service — at least for the opening weekend — parking could become a safety and convenience issue. Now that it is open, this second ReStore location will operate Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Business will be monitored. If its volume grows, as is expected, the hours likely will be expanded in time, Smart explained.
“We’ve said this before, and we’ll keep saying it,” Smart said. “The Cleveland and Bradley County community has been so generous, and supports Habitat for Humanity and our ReStore so well. Today is a prime example. Look at this crowd. It’s wonderful!”
Cleveland City Councilman George Poe agreed. After fulfilling his role as ribbon-cutting VIP, Poe told the Cleveland Daily Banner the second Habitat ReStore offers three key ingredients — good merchandise selection, good product quality and inventory at a low price.
With a laugh, Poe added, “Maybe this should send a message to all of our merchants.” On a more serious note, Poe pointed to another perspective of having the Habitat ReStore expand to a second location.
“Any time you’ve got a building that’s empty, and somebody comes in to fill it, that’s a great thing for the community,” he said. “You’ve filled a void.”
The new ReStore is located at 4506 North Lee Highway in a 16,000-square-foot facility that formerly housed Extreme Motor Sports. It is adjacent to Don Ledford Automotive Center.
Poe also pointed to the number of shoppers waiting to get inside the new store.
“We’ve got a great crowd here today,” he said.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland, who flanked ReStore manager Ken Brock as he scissored through the ribbon, said having two Habitat ReStores in the same community is a positive.
“It’s encouraging,” Rowland said. “We’ve had two full-service ReStores opening before Christmas.”
Like Poe, the Cleveland mayor also looked to the big picture; in this case, the Habitat for Humanity mission.
“With every $50,000 that is spent in a Habitat ReStore, those proceeds will build another Habitat for Humanity house,” Rowland stressed. “This is another exciting day, and look at all the people who have come!”
Dan Howell, executive assistant to Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, is a regular Habitat ReStore customer. He was on hand for Thursday’s opening in both government and shopper capacities.
“I’m a frequent shopper at the Habitat ReStore,” Howell said. “As a do-it-yourselfer, I’m always on the lookout for a bargain. And besides, this new ReStore is a lot closer to my house!”
Howell said he shops at the ReStore about once a week.
Gary Farlow, president and CEO of the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce, was also on hand for Thursday’s opening.
“This is a great thing for Bradley County and Cleveland,” Farlow stressed. “Habitat for Humanity has always done a great job for our community. We’re excited that they’ve been able to open a second ReStore.”
Bradley County Mayor (D. Gary) Davis was also perusing the floor aisles, checking out the full shelves and mingling with the large crowd.
“This is a really nice store,” he said. “It says a lot about this community that we can have two [ReStores]. What makes the Habitat ReStores here such a great story is how the people in our community are so supportive of it, and that’s from both ends ... they’re bringing in their donations and they’re carrying out what they’ve bought.”
As happy as local government leaders, Habitat staff and the nonprofit’s volunteers are about the opening of the second donation center, the shoppers Thursday were just as happy — and maybe even more.
“I am a regular ReStore shopper,” Cleveland resident Charlotte Scott said, some pride showing through her words. “I wanted to come in today and see what they have. I came in looking for some kitchen knobs (cabinet hardware) ... and look, I found them!”
The smiling consumer said she previously had shopped at the ReStore on Grove Avenue. Now, she’ll split her time and money, and shop at both.
Another Cleveland resident, Darlene Derryberry, put it in another personal perspective.
“Where they’re (Habitat ReStore) at ... I’m at,” she laughed. “I’ve shopped at Habitat ReStores for a lot of years.”
She praised the cleanliness of the newest ReStore while pointing out its retail floor was a little less spacious than its southern sister on Grove Avenue. The difference is ReStore No. 2 is essentially one big showroom; the No. 1 location is comprised of several retail floors that are compartmentalized.
“But this one is just as nice,” Derryberry said. “I’m proud of them. They (Habitat for Humanity and ReStore) have always done a good job.”
Another happy shopper was Betty Ann Pearson, an elderly Cleveland resident who said she used to shop at the Habitat ReStore every day. Now, she has slowed down to “... about every other day.” And most of the time she brings along a shopping partner — her 3-year-old great grandson, Walker Pearson, who enjoys the ride in the shopping cart almost as much as looking at all the bright colors and product selection in the big store.
At home, one of his most frequently asked questions to his adoring great grandmother is, “We goin’ to Habitat?”
Asked if she has shopped before at a Restore, the Bradley County senior offered, “Lord yes! I’m a regular shopper.”
Her mentoring ways with her great grandson are catching on. “Walker may be Habitat’s youngest shopper!” she exclaimed.
One more satisfied customer is Kristina Norris, a Cleveland resident who relocated to Alabama and then returned to Bradley County about a year ago.
“I got most of my furniture at the other ReStore,” she said while paying for a blanket and some other prized parcels at the crowded customer service desk in the center of the massive showroom. “I’m a regular ReStore shopper. I like this one, and it’s really close to where I live. I’m really happy they opened one here.”
The new Habitat ReStore will offer a 25 percent discount on all inventory through Nov. 17.
Both ReStores can be reached by calling 423-473-4610.