BRATTLEBORO — A new Goodwill store and donation center is set to open Dec. 17 in the space formerly home to the Peebles department store.
“First and foremost,” said David K. Twiggs, CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, “it’s a shopping experience. I think in Goodwills throughout the nation, they’re treasure hunts. We get a lot of donations, and our customer base varies just from folks who come in. It’s a therapy to shop in Goodwill.”
Goodwill will be next to Staples in the Royal Square Shopping Center on Putney Road, making Brattleboro the third community in Southern Vermont to host a store and donation center run by the Berkshire County, Massachusetts-based nonprofit Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. Other locations include Bennington and Rutland in Vermont, and Pittsfield, North Adams, Great Barrington and Lee in Massachusetts.
Twiggs said his group wanted to extend the life of the former big-box store.
“We plan to be there for quite some years,” he said. “We just want to thank the Brattleboro community for having us. We’re very excited to be there, and we look forward to engaging on a variety of levels, from our mission footprint to our experience with our retail and donations, [and] being able to come in and keep things out of landfills.”
Twiggs said the desire to bring Goodwill to Brattleboro dates back at least 10 years when he started as a volunteer with the group. He has served as CEO for six years now. He expects the Brattleboro store will employ between 25 to 30 people. About 800 square feet will be dedicated to training community members for jobs with Goodwill and other employment opportunities.
Competitive wages are offered for employees at Goodwill who might not have a chance to work at other places for various reasons, Twiggs said. One of his group’s goals is to help remove barriers to employment via skill training programs.
Barriers can include challenges related to time management, conflict resolution, communications skills, technology skills, transportation and child care. Goodwill is teaming up with the Vermont Department of Labor and Health Care & Rehabilitation Services on the employment programming, said Kathy Anker, vice president of mission services at Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont Inc.
Anker described training offerings to assist with dependability, decision making and strategic thinking.
“We talk a lot about motivation and attitude, because that’s really the basis of who you are,” she said. “We have a nationally certified program in custodial and another in customer service.”
Anker anticipates training programs will likely start up in the summer. She said her group wants people to live a life of independence and be able to support themselves.
The local Goodwill store wants to roll out its voucher program as soon as possible. Anker said community members can get gift cards to purchase clothing and household items by getting referrals from agencies or reaching out to Goodwill directly.
“We care,” she said. “We’re passionate about what we do.”
Having been with Goodwill for 10 years, Anker said the most rewarding part is seeing people start to feel a sense of self confidence and believe in themselves.
Karen Harrington, senior director of retail operations at Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, called the rollout of the new store “enjoyable.”
“To see the first day, customers coming in and all the adrenaline and all the excitement, it’s priceless,” she said.
Maryam Y. Kamanger, senior project manager and vice president of executive affairs and territory expansion at Goodwill Industries of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, said 9,500 square feet is dedicated to the sales floor and 10,000 square feet in the back is for processing/production. That much space allows as many as 40 staff members to join the team.
Kamanger said the store will pay all the people working there; there are no volunteers. Minimum wage across all the stores is based on Massachusetts’ wage, which is $14.25 per hour, rather than Vermont’s, which is currently $12.55 and will be bumped up to $13.18 in January.
Goodwill will be part of the Vermont E-Cycles program, Harrington said. Community members can recycle their electronics at the store.
To stay ahead of potential supply chain issues, Kamanger said she ordered everything needed for the new store about six months ago to be ready for the grand opening.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will begin at 11 a.m.
“It’s fantastic,” Kamanger said. “It’s going to be a lot of people.”
In the next couple of years, Kamanger plans to expand into Addison County. She also wants to add more attended donation centers, which are trucks, in nearby communities and move some into brick-and-mortar locations. She suggested the potential for bringing one to Wilmington.