Habitat for Humanity revamps business that helps finance home-building

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 12:16 a.m.

Habitat for Humanity Allegheny Valley has dropped prices and revamped its ReStore to include more home improvement items, all in an effort to increase business.

“Basically, what we've done is looked at the models of successful stores — the ones that have been the most sustainable and help the mission — annual reports, the layout of the stores,” said Executive Director Dan Casella. “We're working to organize it a little better and improve product placement.”

He said the store has flip-flopped the type of merchandise on display to about 70 percent construction items and furniture and 30 percent knickknacks.

Items range from $10 countertops to $24 rolls of carpet to china cabinets and dining sets.

ReStore moved away from the old “dot system,” similar to tagging at a thift store, to a system commonly seen in consignment stores.

“We write the date on everything that comes in, and prices start at about 50 percent of the market value, depending on condition,” Casella said. “Every month that item is in the store, the price drops by 20 percent.”

Everything sold at ReStore is donated by residents or local businesses.

Proceeds help cover the Habitat affiliate's operating costs and fund home renovation or construction efforts, so selling more merchandise means they can pick up new items to put on display. And that gives people a reason to return.

So far, the changes have been working, said ReStore Manager Jesse Heyl.

“Business has been better than it was before,” he said. “Nothing really sits here very long.”

Volunteer Wendy Booth said she sees new faces in the store all the time.

“People have always said, ‘Oh, I didn't know you were here,' or ‘I didn't know you had this,' ” she said. “I think more people are learning that the ReStore is here.”

Gerry Vaerewyck said the only furniture he and his wife, Mary, ever bought came from ReStore.

“You know how it is in this area; everything gets passed down,” he said.

But an antique dinette set caught his wife's eye, he said.

Vaerewyck's company, Vere Inc., is located behind Habitat's ReStore, and the company's forklifts often are used to lift heavy items at the store.

Habitat's impact

Casella said week after week, Habitat has brought volunteers together at their current work site to benefit the Fiedor family of Arnold.

Nichole Fiedor's son, Seth, is a quadriplegic, and their current home isn't handicapped-accessible. The new house will be equipped for him.

“They're from all over,” Casella said of the folks who come to help. “One thing I try to hammer away at people is it's not all about the family we're building a house for, it's about building community.

“The method is just as important as the impact.”

Casella noted that Habitat for Humanity also has an effect on the economy. The organization is the 14th largest home builder in the United States, with an average home cost of about $60,000. Those who receive homes pay a mortgage.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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