ALLOUEZ — The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Green Bay will soon open a thrift store in Howard to address a good problem — a surplus of item donations.
“We are trying to spread out donations because, right now, they all come into our two (Green Bay) area locations,” said Jody Kasten, director of operations. “There is a lot. The community is generous and, in order to spread that out and to give us more sales floor space to sell what we are getting in as donations, we thought Howard would be a great next step.”
A grand opening for the Howard store, located at 3816 Velp Ave., will be held at 9:45 a.m. Monday, Nov. 30. Deacon Dennis Majewski, spiritual advisor for the St. Vincent de Paul District Council of Green Bay will do a blessing. The event will also include a ribbon-cutting.
The Howard store will feature approximately 7,500 square feet of sales floor space. The Green Bay West store, located at 940 Hansen Road in Ashwaubenon, has 13,000 square feet. The main building, the Green Bay East store at 920 Weise St., has 33,000 square feet. The hours for all three locations will be the same. The stores are open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. Donations are accepted Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The thrift stores exist to support the mission of the Society, said Kasten.
“We provide a place for people to redeem vouchers when they are given those by our home visit volunteers,” she explained. “We also provide funding. We are a funding source for the Vincentians, the home visit volunteers, to be able to help with rent, bus passes and gas cards.
“If they weren’t doing the work they are, helping people in the community, we wouldn’t even be here as a thrift store,” added Kasten. “Because we are the visible part of the organization, people think of that as what St. Vincent de Paul is. We are the support branch of it. We are not St. Vincent de Paul. It’s those home visit volunteers going out and doing what they do on a daily basis.”
The pandemic has created challenges. Home visits are currently done by phone.
“They’ve had to revamp how they do things and that’s been hard on them,” said Kasten. “They like visiting people and getting to know them.”
COVID-19 also affected the thrift stores, which were shut down during April and May.
“We think we lost, based on last year’s sales and where we were trending, about $700,000 in revenue during that two-month span,” said Kasten. “So we have some ground to make up.”
Merchandise from the other locations will be used to initially stock the Howard sales floor. The space was formerly a party store. A wall and cubicle areas were removed as well as different types of flooring. Enclosures for doors were built to create the donation dock area. The most significant renovation challenge was building the pricing room.
“There were some remnants of the old smokehouse from the meat market that was once there,” explained Kasten. “It had been built over with a platform that had been taking up part of the room. We took the wood out only to find this cement and metal contraption that was more difficult to remove than a bank vault. We had to take out three and a half tons of concrete and I don’t even know what tonnage of steel we took out of there. It was quite the project.”
A few volunteers from the other stores will move to the Howard location. Kasten said that they also have new volunteers and some from the past who will return.
“We think we are going to have a pretty solid volunteer base, but there is room for more,” she said. “What we utilize volunteers for a lot is hanging clothing, putting price tags on clothing, preparing the merchandise for pricing. They add so much value to the product, because they will give tender loving care to clean it. If there are light repairs that need to be done, they will fix it so we can sell it for more in our stores.”
Volunteer applications are available online at svdpgb.org.
The Howard store may not be the last in the area.
“I think there are possibly more down the road,” said Kasten. “This store will give us a wider presence to a larger customer and donor base. We don’t think we’re done yet.”