By Randy Arrington
STANLEY, June 1 — One week after opening its doors to customers, the new Horizon Goodwill Industries thrift store has been enjoying a robust response.
“We’ve had a great response from the community. They were really excited for us to open [last] Friday, and people have been going out with cart fulls,” Nancy Turner, manager of the new Stanley store, said last week.
Following a May 21 grand opening, community members gathered last Thursday for a ribbon cutting at the Stanley Town Centre.
“We always welcome new business, but this is the last building we have empty,” Town Manager Terry Pettit said. “We don’t have anything else empty right now.”
The space now occupied by Goodwill was once the home of Dollar General until the chain store built an independent site adjacent to the shopping center in 2014. The site, located a few doors down from Food Lion, was vacant for several years until Stanley Antiques occupied the space for about a year prior to the new tenant’s arrival.
“Today three people came up and thanked me for opening the store and told me how they are happy they don’t have to drive to Harrisonburg or Winchester,” Horizon Goodwill CEO David Shuster told those gathered at the store last Thursday. “We’re happy to be here, and we’ve had a great reception since we opened.”
Started in 1902 in Boston as a way of putting people to work by reselling items from wealthy residents, Goodwill International operates 155 autonomous franchises operating more than 3,500 stores across the U.S. and beyond. Each franchise is assigned a specific territory. Horizon Goodwill Industries is based in Hagerstown, Md. and employs more than 400 people throughout 18 store locations in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. They provide work training for another 300-plus annually.
The new Goodwill store in Stanley is the southern-most location in the organization’s regional territory — one of five regions covering Virginia. The Harrisonburg store, for example, sits in the “Goodwill of the Valleys” region, which stretches down through the Shenandoah, New River and Roanoke valleys.
“This is an expansion of our longer-term strategic objectives in the territory as assigned by Goodwill International,” Shuster said. “[Goodwill Industries] has vastly expanded beyond the thrift store model, which most people are familiar with.”
The thrift store meets the first goal of Goodwill by creating jobs, but it then uses proceeds from the store to further its goals of helping “remove barriers to employment” and help create opportunities for those who may have difficulty finding employment.
“It takes time to develop the second part of that because we need to earn the funding to pay for the programs,” Shuster said. “But even before opening the store, we began talking to people like [the town manger] and [the Chamber president] to establish where the needs are and see where we can be of assistance. We want to collaborate with as many community partners as possible.”
Gina Hilliard, president of the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce told those in attendance last Thursday about a Zoom meeting held a few months ago with officials from Goodwill. She spoke about the chamber’s partnership with local schools to help students gain real world experience through internships and help with interview skills.
According to Horizon’s website, 90 cents of every dollar earned by the retail stores they operate goes back into job training and other employment services in the area. Some of those services include helping associates with interview skills, creating a resume, developing work skills or experience, utilizing a vocational case manager, or even basic needs like transportation and housing. Currently, Winchester is the closest Goodwill location to Page County providing those services in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, but Shuster says that could change.
“We are doing some of that work at the Woodstock location, and we have been doing some things with the United Way of the Shenandoah Valley as well,” Shuster said. Some services may also be available at the new Mount Jackson location, which also opened on May 21.
“Those two stores [Stanley and Mount Jackson] are really mirrors of each other,” Shuster added. “They both opened [May 21], they both sit in the same [style of] shopping center, with the same landlord, both in the spot next to Food Lion and they both took spots formally occupied by Dollar General.”
The Stanley location currently employs 14 people to handle customers, stock shelves and handle donations. Anyone wishing to make a donation to Goodwill should drive around to the rear of the building and drop off items in the bins (carts) provided. There is a sign over the Goodwill door at the rear of the building.
“We’re hoping we keep this up,” the store manager said of the activity during the first week, “but we need donations to keep it going.”
All donations to Goodwill, a non-profit organization, are tax deductible. If donations are slow locally, Goodwill transfers extra items between stores to keep the shelves full.
“Thanks for getting this started and coming here to invest in the Town of Stanley,” Hilliard said prior to the ribbon cutting.
“When we started talking a few months ago, I didn’t know a lot about what Goodwill does…but I have gotten a real education on what they can do,” Pettit said on Thursday. “We welcome you here and are excited about what you can bring to the town and the county.”
As the Goodwill slogan says, Stanley and Page County have truly gained “more than just a store.”
For more information about Horizon Goodwill Industries, visit their website or call 800-435-2480.