One More ReStore
Celebrating Habitat’s retail mission with a message
BY JOHN WHITLOCK
There’s going to be cake.
That’s one of the first things Habitat volunteers will tell you about their upcoming 30th anniversary.
But that’s the least of this celebration that will commemorate Habitat’s 30-year presence in Lexington — a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry that builds affordable housing with people in need. Habitat houses are a hand up, not a handout, with prospective owners contributing sweat equity throughout the process. The home buyer makes a literal, physical investment in Habitat’s work. The hours invested are viewed as a “down payment” of sorts and all hours are completed before the closing.
One of the most highly visible parts of Habitat’s mission in Lexington are its prominent “ReStore” retail locations on Southland Drive and Winchester Road.
Jason Nesler shines when he shows visitors around the Winchester Road space.
With pride and enthusiasm, the ReStore manager tells us about some of the unique treasures lining the shelves and packed on the floor as he provides a tour. Nesler, like the shoppers ReStore draws, never knows what will be brought in on a daily basis. Recent visitors would’ve found both an ornamental boat and a vintage golf ball washer for sale.
An EKU biology grad who’d worked at Gall’s and Wilson’s Nursery, Nesler was ready for a new challenge when he applied with Habitat.
“Months later,” he says, “they contacted me and made this pitch, this idea. The idea was they wanted to start a second [ReStore] location here in the city. So I came on board about two months before we actually opened this location so a lot of that time was training, setting up the store, getting the construction done, drywall, painting, the floors.“
“I think everyone here is tapped into the bigger meaning of why we are here and what we doing. It makes it feel like not just another retail job.”
ReStore, the retail operation of Habitat for Humanity, accepts a wide array of donations — couches, dishes, chairs, tables, lighting, books, works of art, stoves, refrigerators, building supplies, doors, mantles, DVDs, pianos, beds, tchotchkes, bathtubs, floors, counters, fans, paint brushes, collectibles, hardware, and yes, of course, the kitchen sink.
All these items, and many, many more, are sold to the public to help fund Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building affordable housing in the community.
ReStore is usually one of a treasure hunter’s first stops. Nesler says vintage stores also use Restore as a resource and sometimes, the same shoppers will return twice a day just to see what has changed.
Opening the new store on Winchester wasn’t undertaken on a whim.
“For years, (the new location) has been projected and budgeted for, planned toward,” Nesler said. “There are over 900 affiliates (ReStore locations) nationwide for Habitat For Humanity. Lexington is consistently in the top 20, often in the top 10 in terms of output, revenue, donations, all of those metrics.”
Despite a successful expansion of the Southland Drive location, the public’s support for ReStore through both donations and retail sales made the decision to add another store obvious,
“I thought they were messing with me when I heard numbers like 200-donor Saturdays, but that is a real thing, ” Nesler said. “When you think about the logistics of that many donations, it’s kinda insane, but they handle it. Lexington was kinda busting at the seams for a second store. The time was right and this property became available.”
Although Nesler’s job is primarily operating a retail store, the mission of Habitat For Humanity is never far from his mind. He regularly attends Habitat For Humanity ‘build days’ dedications and other events that highlight the very real and positive work of the organization.
The idea that public good is coming from their efforts is a message that Nesler likes to share with the staff.
It isn’t just a job, it’s a mission with a message. He says, “Part of the appeal of working for a non-profit is knowing the good you are doing for the community that you serve. I think everyone here is tapped into the bigger meaning of why were are here and what we doing. It makes it feel like not just another retail job.”
It’s not traditional retail in many ways. “Literally, here, your entire store could change
week to week. We move that much product. Conceptually, that’s a lot different from traditional retailers.”
Because ReStore’s entire inventory comes from individual and corporate donations, it can present a challenge.
“You never know what your donor count is gonna be in any given week,” Nesler said. “There is a lot of improv and thinking on the fly and problem solving on the fly.”
Although ReStore is known as a haven for treasure hunters, it’s also a well known source for incredible bargains.
“We do use a lot of references,” Nesler says. “We do look at eBay and other online sellers if we have something unusual come in. The bottom line is we are trying to create the best possible prices for the folks in our community while gaining as much profit as possible because that goes right back into our mission of building affordable housing in the community.”
Lexington Habitat for Humanity will celebrate its 30th anniversary on September 8. Join friends, staff, donors, and volunteers at Martin Luther King Park from 2 pm to 3:30 pm for celebration, community and of course, cake! A brief presentation is scheduled for 2:30 p.m.
This article also appears on page 5 of the September 2018 print edition of Ace.
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