Friday, April 6, 2012

The Super Special Thrift Store Tour: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Impact! **************PART 1**************

Impact Thrift Stores, Inc first opened its doors in 2001 with a property of 12,000 square feet in Hatboro, PA and high hopes to help fund local charities in the Philadelphia area. And in just 11 years, they've accomplished their goals and continue to welcome new ones with an open mind and open heart. And with a new Impact Thrift store opening in just two weeks, the entire team is working to bring their biggest and best achievement to an eagerly awaiting public.

On Thursday morning I stood there in Feasterville, PA, staring at the massive spread of property, at first as just a member of the public awaiting good deals on secondhand wares. But moments later, after being invited inside for a personal tour and interview opportunity, my role shifted quickly from an eager buyer to an awe-struck observer. Jill Tarabar, the Assistant Director of Business Development and woman behind both the Impact Thrift Stores website and social media, was my guide for the day. After cheerfully popping out of the receiving area to meet me, Jill led the way through threshold of what will be the processing area in the back room and right on to the sales floor.

The sheer magnitude of the building was nearly overwhelming. But in trying to maintain some degree of professionalism, I resisted the urge to frolic down the aisles in childlike glee. We talked about the business as we walked throughout the various departments of Impact, all of which were being tended by employees and management alike.

Once I wrapped my head around the space, a property of 66,000 square feet with 42,000 feet of actual sales space, I could not believe the inventory. Wrapped pallets, crates, totes, boxes and bags overflowed onto the  floor, waiting to be processed and priced by the team of Impact employees. Jill acknowledged the impressive inventory and explained, "Impact has made an impression because we really have generous donors. I think people are downsizing but want to be eco-friendly. They are just looking around and seeing too much."

And with all this space, Impact gladly takes it all in to help their cause. And the cause is a mission unique to Impact Thrift Stores. While Impact is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, their income from sales does not benefit their own charity, but a variety of other charitable organizations in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. "We are transparent with the charities we support," said Jill. "Philanthropically, we have a completely different focus, with monthly donations that primarily aid families and children." Impact Thrift Stores admirably supports charities that provide everything from physical and emotional needs, education, safe recreational opportunities and inter-faith support. In short, they're a non-profit charity to support other charities. Impact also offers students hands-on workshops for academic credit in an internship program, exciting class projects on repurposing items and recycling and the opportunity to fulfill volunteer requirements. Programs include retail business training, community service and non-profit awareness.

But for any of these programs to function or before any of these charities can receive funds,  there is still much work to be tackling this mount of clothing, for example. But surprisingly, the staff of the Impact clothing department didn't seem to be bothered by the task, as they cleaned, processed, priced and sorted the mountain of donations. And while some staff members said they have found designer wares fit for the boutique section of the store, there are some garments that aren't in good selling condition. 

Ever concerned with their carbon footprint, the Impact business model ensure that nothing goes to waste. Jill explained that any clothing unfit for the sales floor goes through another process entirely. "If a garment is damaged we first aim to sell it pennies on the pound to another thrift store, if that doesn't work, the next step would be to send it to local homeless shelters. If they have no use for the clothing, the garments are shipped internationally to those in need. The last stop for unusable clothing is the shredder for use in insulation or some other means."

No matter the garment, the merry women of the Impact clothing department processed and priced, priced and processed...steadily making progress in the task that awaited them. And they did it with a smile, in a true spirit of team work. But this didn't surprise Jill, as she had mentioned earlier: "The people who work for Impact are here for more than just a paycheck. Their heart is in it. They're dedicated to the charities we support."

Impact is doing more than giving back to the community, they are forging a cyclical relationship that makes the thrift store, the donors, the shoppers, the staff and the support to the charities co-exist as one cooperative  unit. They are creating a community. And it didn't take long for me to note that this is the overall theme of the tour and the interview, as I meet several store staff and corporate leaders who share wholeheartedly in the same belief.

I suppose you could say that this is exactly what the President and CEO of Impact Thrift Stores, Inc had in mind when he first began his mission. And though I was only able to speak with him briefly, I got the impression that his initial mission has not changed a bit in the last 11 years. Standing proudly by the entrance of the largest Impact Thrift Store to date, President Paul Baur explained his business model perfectly:

"We really focus on the community as the owners of Impact, because without donations we would be empty. Members of the community make those donations. Employees and volunteers work hard to sell the items to the community. Charities in the community receive the funds they need. We're all connected. And at Impact we like to create win-win scenarios." ~Paul D. Baur President, Impact Thrift Stores.

The President, Manager and staff are way off in the distance. 

And by the looks of the new location, this Impact Thrift store will just be one of many wins for the company that has championed the cause of so many charities in the community. 

But there are still many questions to be answered during my tour of the Feasterville, PA Impact. 
  • Is thrift shopping only for the underprivileged? 
  • What is the strangest donation Impact employees have seen so far?
  • What wonderful festivities are planned for the grand opening of the Feasterville Impact Thrift Store?
  • What will it mean to shop in a thrift store larger than the average supermarket? 

Stay tuned for these answers and more on the exciting conclusion of The Super Special Thrift Store Tour.


Trudy Holtz said...

I still miss the Value City that used to be there. But I am sooooo excited for the new shop! I love their Hatboro location and am always looking for a new place to thrift. Can't wait!

Jackie Jardine said...

Hi there, Trudy. I actually never stepped foot into the Value City, so I don't have anything to miss. But believe me when I say that the new Impact will leave nothing to be desired. It's HUGE! Just a supermarket of thrifiting.

Have you ever been to the Montgomeryville Impact? I was always impressed by that location...but the Feasterville Impact really will be something.

I'll be posting more info from my tour and all of the details on the grand opening in a few days.

Thanks for reading!

<3 Jackie @ Let's Go Thrifting!

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