By Jennifer Sheehan, Of The Morning Call
It's a store fit for a treasure hunt.
"There's no predictability on what we'll have each week," says Janet Kolepp, manager of ReStore in Whitehall Township.
Based in what was once the Circuit City electronics store on Grape Street in Whitehall, Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley's ReStore will open Saturday featuring new and gently used home improvement goods, furniture, home accessories, building materials and appliances.
All the items are for sale at a fraction of the retail price and the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley, which helps build and renovate homes for low-income families. The Whitehall ReStore is among 800 such Habitat for Humanity stores across the country and 17 in Pennsylvania.
The store will be staffed by mostly volunteers, some of whom have received help with an affordable home through Habitat. Families helped by Habitat make an agreement to put in 250 hours of "sweat equity" in exchange for help with their home.
"It's their down payment," Kolepp says.
Circuit City, highly visible with its large red facade, closed on Grape Street in 2008. ReStore has the former front door (look for that red facade) and about half of the retail portion of the former electronics store and warehouse.
Habitat has been collecting donations for the store since August and renovating its retail space since September.
I stopped by before it opened and walked through the 14,000 square feet of retail space. Some might say it's a home-improvement store, but Kolepp had a different way of looking at it.
"It's a home-improving store," Kolepp says.
The front of the store will be a showroom for furnishings, including sofas which will run $50 to $250 ($500 for a nice leather sofa). You'll also see a "book nook" spot for used books.
In the warehouse area, there's virtually anything a do-it-yourselfer would need for a project — stainless steel sinks, replacement doors and windows, chandeliers and bathroom lighting, flooring of all kinds and appliances (ovens, washers).
Habitat is looking for donations from the public but they have to fit their requirements. (See acceptable donations list). Donations may be made at ReStore, at a drop-off spot to the left of the store. Donations are accepted 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For larger items such as appliances, ReStore will come and pick up them up. They may want to see a photo first of the items to ensure their quality.
By accepting donated items, Habitat has another way of helping the community — by reducing what's sent to landfills.
"If we sell $300,000 in merchandise, you're keeping 200 tons out of landfills," Kolepp says. "This is part of our contribution to the community. We are happy to divert items from our landfills."
Deb Cummins, Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley's executive director, says she hopes ReStore will be another avenue for people in the area to volunteer.
ReStore will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at 1053 Grape St., Whitehall. To find out more, call 610-776-7499, email ReStore@HabitatLehighValley.org or visit http://www.habitatlehighvalleyrestore.org/.
Also coming to the Circuit property will be Hibachi Grill restaurant, which will be to the right of the former main entrance and in the other half of the store's former retail portion. We'll keep you posted on this as we don't have a date for it to open.