New flagship ReUzit opens on State Street

By on September 18, 2019

Mennonite Central Committee, which has its U.S. headquarters in Akron, relies on more than 100 thrift stores in U.S. and Canada for a major portion of its annual support.

For the most recent fiscal year, the stores contributed more than $15 million of the $81 million spent annually on MCC’s global relief, development and peacemaking efforts.

Among the MCC-supporting thrift stores is one that opened in downtown Ephrata in 1982.

While the Ephrata ReUzit has at times generated around $250,000 a year for MCC, its contribution has dropped dramatically in the last several years to the point where it barely topped $70,000.

But things should start to turn around this week.

Following nearly a decade of planning and saving, the Ephrata ReUzit has opened a new, flagship store at 1054 S. State St. in Ephrata that consolidates three stores and is expected to soon be generating $1 million in annual donations for MCC.

“We’re trying to be efficient so that we can be maybe not the biggest in square feet, but the biggest giver to MCC,” said Mark Zimmerman, an owner of Paul B. Zimmerman Inc. who serves as chairman of the Ephrata ReUzit board of directors.

“It’s easy to tell that when things get consolidated, it’s good for business,” he said.

Building new
The new store, dubbed ReUzit on State: An MCC Thrift Store, has 20,000 square feet of retail space as well as 16,000 square feet for sorting and storage.

It replaces the former downtown Ephrata at 22-24 E. Main St. as well as the furniture and bookselling service that had operated in buildings torn down to make room for the new store.

Like other thrift stores that support MCC, ReUzit on State operates as a nonprofit organization with its own independent board of directors. With the support of MCC, the ReUzit has been reducing its annual donation recently in order to save money for the new, consolidated store, Zimmerman said.

Building at the location of its existing stores required buying an adjacent property that had housed an auto repair shop.

David Worth, the store’s general manager, estimated it cost around $5 million to acquire the land, tear down the old buildings and build the new one.

Yet, he notes, that because of a combination of years of savings and donations, the store should be able to open without any debt.

While it’s not unheard of to operate out of a brand new building, Worth said it’s more typical for the stores to be adapted to existing buildings, such as the ReUzit shop in New Holland that is in a former Good’s Furniture warehouse.

“If we could have figured out how to build it on this spot and use the existing building, and get the parking we would have done that. But there was no way to do it,” Worth said.

Nevertheless, the buildings that had been on the property became the foundation–quite literally–of what replaced them.

Ephrata ReUzit is opening new store in this big, new building they have constructed themselves. Tuesday, September 10, 2019

“All the existing buildings on here were ground up and turned into aggregate on the site. We did reuse it,” he said. “That was the best we could do in this situation.”

Improved business

Since it was built from scratch, the new store was designed to take advantage of the visibility from the road and provide ample parking while also making donations simple with a dedicated drive-thru.

“In a thrift store, if you don’t get the donations coming in, you don’t have anything to sell,” Worth says. “We want to make sure our donation process is simple, clean, clear and easy.”

While Worth says connecting with donors is a hallmark of a thrift store, he’s not worried about being enough donatable items out there, even with other thrift stores in the area.

“You can say this is a critique on our society — we’re a consumer society, we have too much stuff, so there’s no shortage,” Worth says. Since it was built from scratch, the new store was designed to take advantage of the visibility from the road and provide ample parking while also making donations simple with a dedicated drive-thru.

“In a thrift store, if you don’t get the donations coming in, you don’t have anything to sell,” Worth says. “We want to make sure our donation process is simple, clean, clear and easy.”

While Worth says connecting with donors is a hallmark of a thrift store, he’s not worried about being enough donatable items out there, even with other thrift stores in the area.

“You can say this is a critique on our society–we’re a consumer society, we have too much stuff, so there’s no shortage,” Worth says.

“You don’t have to go up and down the stairs anymore,” he said of the store that’s all on one level.

Ephrata ReUzit is opening a new store in a big, new building they have constructed themselves. David Worth, general manager, right and Mark Zimmerman, left, ReUzit board chair, discuss the strategy with the ReUzit on State store and the changing landscape for resale goods. Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The extra volunteers means the store won’t have to add more employees, Worth said, which will allow more money to be saved for its ultimate mission of service “in the name of Christ,” which is embodied by MCC.

“For the staff and volunteers, it’s all a part of our ministry as Christian people to the hurting people of the world, local and global,” Worth said.

“You don’t have to go up and down the stairs anymore,” he said of the store that’s all on one level.

The extra volunteers means the store won’t have to add more employees, Worth said, which will allow more money to be saved for its ultimate mission of service “in the name of Christ,” which is embodied by MCC.

“For the staff and volunteers, it’s all a part of our ministry as Christian people to the hurting people of the world, local and global,” Worth said.

Chad Umble is a business reporter who covers the economy and innovation and writes What’s in Store, a column that is a weekly roundup of retail and restaurant news. He can be reached at cumble@lnpnews.com or (717) 291-8718. You can also follow @ChadUmbleLNP on Twitter. 

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