Council approves plans for Re-Uzit

By on June 14, 2017

Ephrata Borough Council approved six waiver/modifications and the final land development plan this week for the Ephrata Re-Uzit Stores Inc., paving the way for the charity business to expand its operation and relocate to 1040 South State St.

The final move won’t occur until the summer of 2019, and both the East Main Street shop and the South State Street store will continue to operate as usual until that time.

“We are open for business at both places for the next two years,” said David G. Worth, general manager of the store.

Staff and volunteers will also continue to accept donations at both locations during that time.

Construction at the new location is expected to begin in September of 2018, with occupancy for the new location planned for the summer of 2019.

Borough council was unanimous in its approval, with Mayor Ralph Mowen and Councilman Melvin Weiler absent.

The Re-Uzit Store has been a mainstay of downtown Ephrata for nearly 35 years, but an increase in business and operations has made a move to a larger facility necessary.

The Main Street store currently sells mostly clothing and housewares, while the South State Street store specializes in furniture and books.

The two retail locations will be consolidated into a one-stop merchandise center on land currently occupied by a Meineke franchise and the current Ephrata Re-Uzit Furniture and Booksavers Store at 1054 South State St.

The Booksaver part of the business, Worth said, collects used text books and discarded library books and sells them at low cost to students and families who home-school, as well as via the Internet.

Books too damaged to be resold are not thrown away, but are recycled, Worth said.

The Meineke business will continue to operate at its current location until August of 2018, then is expected to move to another Ephrata locale.

The new building will be 35,850 square feet and will include “green” energy solutions, such as solar, geo-thermal, insulation and up-to-date lighting.

The building is being constructed by ACI, general contractor, and Pioneer Engineering.

Features of the new locale will include a drive-up donation station, and a horse shed as well as 88 parking spaces.

Ephrata Re-Uzit Stores is a retail and online operation that supports worldwide programs of the Mennonite Central Committee.

Since 1982, more than $4 million has been donated to provide relief and development to many countries. The stores also support local social service efforts and faith-based agencies, and provide volunteer opportunities for court-appointed community service.

With the approval of its development plan, the operation will be able to bring three divisions of its program under one roof.

In a press release, Mark Zimmerman, chairman of the board, said “The board, staff, and volunteers have been preparing for this move for several years. We hope that the consolidation of the two store front operations and the Booksavers online operation into one location will provide increased operational efficiencies and lower costs, while providing better drop-off and processing facilities.

“The increased retail space will provide more good quality items at reasonable prices for more customers. There will be increased volunteer opportunities in all aspects of the operation and increased revenue to give to the work of MCC and local programs. We are very pleased to be entering a new chapter in our almost 35 years of service in Ephrata.”

Council members expressed gratitude that the operation would remain in Ephrata. As a non-profit agency, the Re-Uzit stores are not required to pay property taxes, but have made many donations to the borough, the local fire company, and ambulance company of their own volition.

“Because we use their services, we give voluntary contributions, it’s as simple as that,” Worth said.

The waivers approved by council addressed matters of zoning, modification of existing features, and modification of cover over storm water pipes.

Other business

In another matter, council also approved a request by the Ephrata Farmers’ Day Association Inc. to erect a temporary 12 foot by six foot electronic video wall at Whistle Stop Plaza during the 2017 Ephrata Fair.

The video wall is expected to increase revenues by selling advertising and improve communications during the fair.

“This really brings us into the 21st century,” said Galen Kulp, a representative of the Farmers Day Association. “Everything today is video, and this will help with everything from weather alerts to lost children.

“The Whistle Stop is a great location for the board because we can stream things from the park, as well,” he added.

The site of the video board will make it necessary to move entertainment across the street, instead of performing at the Plaza.

A technician will be at the video board at all times, controlling what messages are allowed on the board, said Farmers’ Day Vice President Matthew Smith.

“While it will be used for advertising, we want to promote the town, too,” Smith said.

Councilman Victor Richard said he liked the idea of the video board, both to address safety issues and to give people up-to-the-minute information on events as they occur.

The Ephrata Fair is set for Sept. 26 to 30 this year.

Council also gave permission for Boy Scout Troop 38 to use the Ephrata Borough Office parking lot and the Major Winters Memorial Trail parking lot adjacent to East Fulton Street and Railroad Avenue to park cars as a fundraiser during the fair.

The annual craft fair held the first Saturday in September by Downtown Ephrata Inc. may be cancelled this year due to declining attendance.

“There simply aren’t as many people coming out,” Council President Sue Rowe said.

Instead, the group “Ephrata Unexpected” may compile a show or another event in October.

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