NEWBURY — The ReStore property for the Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity is under consideration for sale, according to Executive Director Jim Thie. He said that he will be “testing the marketability” of the property after the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for the organization.
There are two ReStores for the organization, one 12,000-square-foot building on Route 87 in Newbury and the other on Vine Street in Eastlake. The ReStores accept donations of new or gently used appliances, building materials, houseware and more then sell them at half of retail prices. The net proceeds are donated to the Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity.
Before the novel coronavirus forced the store to close, Mr. Thie said that profit margins were in a steep decline over the past five years for the Newbury location. He said that sales also had a downward trend. For this reason, the Newbury ReStore will not reopen for the foreseeable future, but he said that it will reopen when it is “reasonably possible.”
“I’m sad about this, it’s not an easy decision,” Mr. Thie said on Monday, as he recalled shopping at the store years ago. “It comes with the heart and the head.”
He explained that the Eastlake location had higher profits than the Newbury ReStore and there are bills to cover, such as a mortgage, utilities and staff. Mr. Thie said that he will consult “external experts” to learn more about the property to make informed decisions about its future.
The organization uses a mix of paid employees and volunteers. Mr. Thie said that the organization will move forward with its employees on a case-by-case basis. He said that COVID-19 has “spooked all of us” and some people do not want to return to a retail environment.
Both locations have many donations at this point because people stuck at home during the pandemic have taken the opportunity to clean out their houses and donate unused items. He said that members of the community have been generous, but he is not sure how fast shoppers will return to the Eastlake ReStore, which is expected to reopen in the next couple weeks.
“COVID-19 throws fastball pitches at us every day,” he said. The Eastlake location is still in need of plexiglass dividers and more staff members.
Mr. Thie said that there has also been some deferred maintenance at the Newbury location. For example, the parking lot has potholes and could be a safety concern. He said that necessary capital improvements added more pressure to the decision to indefinitely close the Newbury ReStore.
Despite the indefinite closure, Mr. Thie said that the Lake-Geauga Habitat for Humanity is still fully committed to Geauga County and its residents. Trucks will still pick up donations at residences and take them to the Eastlake ReStore, but employees will not go into the house due to the pandemic.
The organization’s administrative offices are moving back to the Newbury ReStore this fall. The offices are currently in Chardon, but Mr. Thie said that it is a cost-saving measure to move them.
“Right now, we are serving Lake and Geauga through our primary mission, which is providing affordable housing,” he said. “All the decisions I make are through that lens, how we can be more effective in accomplishing our mission.”