Habitat for Humanity ReStore gets reboot in Portland

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PORTLAND — Just beyond the entrance to the new Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland ReStore lies a hulking seven-foot service counter that was cobbled together from discarded antique doors, ornate trim and scraps of mahogany.

“We wanted this to be exemplary of what we do here,” employee and carpenter Andrew Smith said.

Smith and several sawdust-covered coworkers and volunteers were in the final stages of site work recently at 649 Warren Ave. The new store is scheduled to celebrate its reopening from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19. The event will include a “food truck festival,” ribbon cutting, an invocation by a reverend and presentations by Habitat Executive Director Godfrey Wood, state Sen. Justin Alfond and City Manager Mark Rees.

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit group that builds affordable homes for qualified buyers; ReStore is its revenue-generating arm. The store offers new and used building materials, such as windows, doors, cabinets and lighting fixtures, that have been donated by contractors, stores or homeowners. The new location will also sell furniture.

The group has high hopes for the new storefront. At its old location on Bell Street, the store generated about $350,000 a year. That number could skyrocket, said Wood, who is married to Karen Wood, publisher of The Forecaster.

“We’re projecting the ReStore will do close to $750,000 in sales in its first year,”  he said. “Roughly out of every $100,000 in sales, we generate enough to build another home.”

Wood cited three factors for the projected growth: a facility that’s three times as big, a location that’s highly visible and improved brand recognition.

“Restores across the country have been tremendously successful,” he said. “It’s a great brand. People love shopping there. We’ve got lots of inventory and the pricing is just spot on.”

For instance, new materials that are donated to ReStore are sold at 50 percent of retail value, he said.

Steve Barmore, store manager, said there was 5,000 square feet of selling space at the old location compared to 15,000 now. Also, the old location was difficult to find.

“Our most frequent call was: ‘Where are you?'” he said. “Now we’re right across the street from Home Depot. We’re near Handyman Rental. Hammond Lumber is across the street,” Barmore said. “We’re right along to way to Riverside recycling. If you’re going to the dump (with building supplies), you can stop here and see if we’ll take it.

“We’re really excited. We think we can do a lot better business here.”

It’s not that the old shop was lacking, either, said store employee Alexa Plotkin. The Bell Street location ranked 30th out of 800 nationwide stores in dollars in sales per square foot.

“We’ve done really well,” she said.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland was established in 1985. Since then, the group has built 57 homes in the region – a pace that is comparable to other affiliates, Communications Manager Laura Duplissis said.

“We’re definitely looking to increase the number of homes we do every year and continue to grow,” she said.

Each home is built by hundreds of volunteers, plus a Habitat for Humanity construction manager who is always on the job site and paid contractors who handle any hazardous work, such as roofing, Duplissis said.

Qualifying for a home requires a lengthy application process. Qualifications are based on income and one’s ability to help with the project and repay a no-interest mortgage. The people who will eventually inhabit the homes are required to volunteer either at the job site or in the administration office, she said.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or bmccanna@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @BenMcCanna.

Sidebar Elements

Employees Andrew Smith and Alexa Plotkin prepare to rip moulding on a table saw in the new Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland ReStore on Warren Avenue in Portland. The new space is much larger than a previous location and is expected to generate more than twice the revenue for the nonprofit organization.