PORTLAND — As Goodwill Industries of Northern New England prepares to open its new flagship store in South Portland later this month, the nonprofit is also preparing to shutter its store on St. John Street in Portland.
The news has some shoppers, who either cannot afford a car or cannot drive due to medical conditions, asking themselves how they can continue shopping at a store they have come to rely on.
Goodwill Spokeswoman Michelle Smith said the company is planning on opening their new flagship store in South Portland on March 26.
The 27,000-square-foot store that will be located in the former Circuit City at 555 Maine Mall will surpass Bangor to become Goodwill’s largest store in New England. The South Portland store will include a staffed drive-through donation center, like the retail store in Topsham.
But on March 20, Smith said Goodwill is expected to close a thrift store in the Union Station Plaza on St. John Street that has been open since 1995.
Assistant Store Manager Krista Okerholm said that although many shoppers and employees are excited about the opening of the new store, some have been asking about how they will get to the new store.
“We definitely get a lot of people who walk (to the store),” Okerholm said. “We have been indicating there is a bus run that goes to South Portland.”
South Portland Transportation Director Tom Meyers said he has been fielding calls from customers and employees about navigating the public transit system to the new Goodwill store.
Meyers said shoppers would take the number five METRO bus to the Maine Mall and ask the driver for a free transfer. The passenger would then get off at a common transfer point at Macy’s or J.C. Penney and get on the South Portland Route 3 Crosstown bus, which drops passengers off directly in front of 555 Maine Mall Road.
Portland resident Nancy Knauber is among the shoppers concerned about access to the new store. She said a medical condition makes it impossible for her to drive and a complex bus system will make it difficult to get to the new store.
“It’s a true disadvantage to people like me,” she said.
Goodwill operates 25 stores in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, including outlets in South Portland, Portland and Falmouth. Last year, the non-profit assisted more than 5,000 families through its human services and Good Neighbor programs, which are supported by retail sales.
The company employs 1,200 people in New England. It has provided services in Maine since 1933 and added New Hampshire in 1994.
Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or firstname.lastname@example.org