Goodwill might move headquarters to city Central location for offices, training, 'super store' sought

January 17, 1998|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Goodwill Industries hopes to move its headquarters from Arbutus to central Baltimore and employ up to 20 people at a new "super store" at the same site or nearby, the agency said yesterday.

Without a car, many poor people find it hard to get to Goodwill's nerve center on Southwestern Boulevard in Baltimore County, a familiar story for those living in the city who have difficulty getting to opportunities in the counties.

Goodwill moved from East Baltimore to Arbutus in 1969. Its complex contains the central offices, a store, training facilities for jobless people and space where workers make goods under contract to private industry or sort used clothes and housewares for sale in the stores.

"We are in four places in the city now, in Belvedere, Erdman, Fells Point and Waverly," said Marge Thomas, president and chief executive officer. "We'd like to be in the city center too, near public transit. We're looking for government and private funding sources to help us."

Goodwill is transforming most of its 11 stores in the Baltimore area and on the Eastern Shore from small shops of up to 8,000 square feet into super stores selling better merchandise in buildings of up to 20,000 square feet. There is one super store among the retail outlets in Baltimore, at 5620 The Alameda in Belvedere.

"Buyers include the poor. But people may be surprised to know who the average Goodwill shopper is," said Thomas. "She's a woman between 25 and 45 who comes from a family that makes $25,000 to $45,000. She's looking for quality merchandise at a bargain."

Buying used goods generated through a throwaway society makes sense, said Thomas, 51.

"It's OK to wear used things now. Yard sales made bargains popular. People used to be embarrassed to say they bought from Goodwill. Now they brag about the wonderful sales they've picked up."

Thomas Templeton, a Westminster high school teacher, is a donor, a customer and, on stage, a burglar. He plays a thief in "Noises Off," a farce that will open in Columbia in late February. He bought a black sweater and black pants at the Owings Mills Goodwill store for his role.

"It's amazing what Goodwill has," he said. "I've found great costume clothing and period pieces. I bought three tuxedos in mint condition. Each for under $20. My wife, Sharon, and I have bought and given there for 10 years."

Goodwill's retail business -- a key to supporting the nonprofit's mission of training the disabled and poor for jobs and careers -- is booming.

Sales of used clothing and household goods jumped almost 40 percent, from $4 million in 1996 to $5.58 million in 1997. Sales of "salvage" clothing, which has not sold after a month or is too poor in quality to be sold in stores, was sold in bulk, earning $1.14 million last year.

About 500,000 Marylanders contributed goods to Goodwill last year, 16 percent more than in 1996. People donated more than twice as many old cars -- 733 last year compared with 355 the year before. The vehicles were auctioned, yielding $215,000.

A tidal wave of clothes washed into stores toward the end of December as donors got into the holiday spirit and counted on tax deductions.

The retail stores are the most visible sign of the 79-year-old local nonprofit agency, which aims for "career development" of hundreds of poor people. In March, Goodwill began its first project training welfare recipients to enter the work force.

Of its $14.7 million budget for this year, 12 percent is funded by government through grants and fees for services.

Area super stores were opened in 1995 in Elkton, in 1996 on The Alameda and on West Street in Annapolis, and last year on Reisterstown Road in Owings Mills and in Bel Air.

A super store will open in Salisbury in March, and two more are planned besides the one hoped for in central Baltimore.

Doug Hiob, senior vice president for retail, said the roomier super stores have more and higher-quality merchandise, attracting more customers. Donations are up because of a good economy, tTC more donation centers -- there are 22 -- and because Goodwill is marketing more, he said.

Thomas said super stores give Goodwill "the chance to become true neighborhood centers." "Neighbors can give clothes there. Neighborhood people can work there sorting donated articles. We now have to sort many clothes in Arbutus and take them to other stores. Finally, local people can come and buy there."

The Arbutus complex is too big and is out of the way, Thomas said. It has 106,000 square feet, and 60,000 square feet would be needed for a combined office, training and industrial centers and store in the city. If the move is made, a store will remain in the Arbutus area.

Goodwill has about 275 employees, with 125 trainees working temporarily before moving on to jobs elsewhere. About 150 people staff the 11 stores and two specialty stores.

Some Goodwill employees assemble products, such as rivet guns for Black & Decker Corp. Others are custodians, cleaning buildings at the State Office Complex, Fort Meade and elsewhere.

Because it is expanding on the Eastern Shore, Goodwill plans to change its name in the spring to Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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