Habitat for Humanity's ReStore shop in Waukesha is a good deal for nonprofit, shoppers

Chris Kuhagen
Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County’s new ReStore opened to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 3, in the Westbrook Shopping Center.
Published on: 8/31/2014

In a typical year, Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County builds one to two houses, but there have been years where no homes were built.

Finding the financial resources was part of the problem. With the introduction of a store that sells new and recycled building goods and furnishings, Diane McGeen, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County, hopes that no longer is an issue.

Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County's new ReStore, which opens to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at least offers hope that the nonprofit organization won't have to skip a year of homebuilding locally.

"It's really exciting when you think about how somebody's life is going to be different because this store is going to be open," McGeen said at the store's private event last week, when Habitat for Humanity supporters got a first glimpse at the new store, located at 2120 E. Moreland Blvd., in the Westbrook Shopping Center.

What's in store

The store, in the space once occupied by Blockbuster video, has been filled with new and gently used donated furniture, household appliances (including washing machines, dryers, ovens and refrigerators), lighting fixtures, bathtubs, sinks, cabinets, desks, chairs, sliding doors and other building materials and electrical and plumbing.

The Waukesha store is the 28th Habitat ReStore in the state.

On the store's first night, ReStore manager Jeff Lieber was already busy putting plenty "sold stickers" on the products. He hopes that continues.

"Often times, the families that shop at ReStores are trying to save some money themselves, and the ReStore provides a way for them to do renovations to their home or upgrades on their appliances while on a budget," Lieber said. "In that small way, we are helping many more families than just those we are putting into homes."

Lieber said he prices items more than half off the retail price, and they could go lower depending on the condition and age of the product.

All of the proceeds from the store will go directly to Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County's effort to build more houses.

Building plan

McGeen said profits from the ReStore are projected to fund three to five houses annually in Waukesha County.

"We think it's going to be very big," said Katherine Andersen, who serves on Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County's board of directors. "Our whole purpose is to build affordable housing, and the proceeds just give us more cash in order to be able to continue to do that."

Andersen said the organization is in the process of building one house in Waukesha. The nonprofit also owns about a half dozen other properties that are ready to go into production for new construction or rehab projects.

"But we have to manage the cash, and this will be huge in helping us build more and more," Andersen said. "We think we can build four or five more houses next year."

Stock help

In order to keep the ReStore stocked, Habitat officials hope the community is just as supportive as it was in helping fill the store. New donations are always welcome.

Andersen said besides the items in the store, there is full warehouse "with about two to three months worth of inventory."

If sale go as planned, the store will need more inventory, however.

"The idea is not to hold inventory. It's to move inventory, so it needs to be priced to move so we can produce a cash flow."

McGeen said Habitat for Humanity can pick up materials at homes across the county or people can drop them off directly at the store where there is an unloading area.

Habitat officials are happy with the donations already on hand.

"We hardly put the word out and we got this many beautiful donations," McGeen said. "People are so generous, it's unbelievable."

That's not to say the store will throw any old thing on the shelf.

"We don't try to take anything that's real old," Lieber said. "We try to stay within four, five years. What we do is when we talk to a donor we ask 'would you give this to a friend.'"

Rehabbing space

Habitat for Humanity's choice for its store site also helped the Westbrook Shopping Center.

Though the center is anchored by a Kohl's Department Store, the space formerly occupied by Blockbuster is one of the center's largest and prominent shops, but it stood vacant for almost two years. (It was briefly occupied by a knick-knack gift shop, which closed earlier this year.)

Habitat officials repurposed the store, which the organization believes will serve them well.

"It was a good opportunity for us," Lieber said.

Over the last few months, Habitat officials remodeled the space and, like many of their projects, volunteers chipped in. This included artist Samantha Konop, who painted a mural in the center of the store that included sayings reflecting Habitat for Humanity's mission. The walls are also painted blue and green to reflect Habitat for Humanity's color scheme.

Habitat for Humanity had been looking at opening a ReStore for the past couple of years but needed to find a spot within its budget and one that would generate a lot of traffic.

Andersen said Habitat for Humanity previously operated a ReStore just outside of downtown Waukesha from 2007-09.

"There just wasn't a lot of parking," Andersen said. "One of the key things is for people to be able to get in, not only for donations, but (for) when they pick things up."

At a glance

What: Habitat for Humanity of Waukesha County ReStore

Where: 2120 E. Moreland Blvd., Waukesha

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays

Website: waukeshacountyrestore.org

Contact: The ReStore's phone number is (262) 662-6061 and for donation inquiries contact (262) 662-6062

Info: All of the proceeds go to help Habitat for Humanity build more houses in Waukesha County