Thriftstores surviving economic downturn

Alison Lucci

While many businesses and organizations struggle to survive the poor economic climate, local thrift stores are not struggling to stock their shelves or generate shoppers.

Goodwill Industries on 2528 state Route 59 in Ravenna has been slammed with donations, said assistant manager Sonia Cedillo.

“A lot of people are having to downsize because of the economy, Cedillo said. “They are getting rid of things they don’t absolutely need.”

Less than two miles away, the County Clothing Center on 3377 state Route 59, also reported a steady flow of donations that aren’t going to waste. Program manger Candy Pollard said the center is serving about 500 more people each month than it did at this time last year.

“We’re very surprised that we are still getting lots of donations in,” Pollard said. “I would’ve expected it to drop.”

The clothing center, a Family and Community Services program, provides used clothing and household items for free to individuals and families in need. It is funded by donations, the United Way and the Portage County Solid Waste Management District Recycling Center.

The mutually beneficial relationship between the clothing center and the recycling center gives the clothing center a permanent building to use and helps the recycling center reduce the waste stream. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency recommends a 25 percent residential recycling rate, and every item taken to the clothing center helps the recycling center toward that goal.

“We continue to support it through a grant because it is a wonderful program,” said William Steiner, director of the Portage County Waste Management district. “It benefits our department because it helps keep these items out of the landfill and it shows on our annual EPA report.”

The environment is benefitting from local thrift stores, but so are people.

The customer count at Goodwill is up 4 percent for the area, said Beth Galambos, marketing and public relations manager for Goodwill of Akron, which oversees Goodwill operations in Summit, Portage, Medina, Ashland and Richland counties. Goodwill’s mission is to provide job training and placement assistance through the revenue created at its stores.

Debbie Ambris, a veteran Goodwill shopper, said the economy hasn’t changed her shopping habits, but has made her even more aware of good deals.

“My husband and I go to Goodwill all the time,” she said, as she perused the women’s jeans rack. “All of them.”

The couple has shopped in Goodwill stores from Ohio to California. The Bedford couple often cart home books, clothes and even toys for their granddaughters from their Goodwill trips.

Galambos said shoppers like Ambris are one reason sales are up.

“A lot of new customers are coming in for the first time and regular customers are coming more frequently,” Galambos said. “We don’t take a hit as much as other businesses might, but it’s still challenging.”

Contact public affairs reporter Alison Lucci at [email protected].