Ribbon-cuttings at local businesses generally attract politicians, government staffers, business owners and some of their employees and friends, the odd curious passer-by. At the ribbon-cutting for Goodwill’s new store on Palm Coast Parkway this morning, most of those gathered around Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin–seemingly the only politician there–were shoppers chomping at the bit to grab their shopping cart and roll in.
When the doors finally opened a little after 10, shoppers poured past Alfin and into the 16,000 square foot store, which is about 5,000 square feet larger than the previous location at Palm Coast Parkway off Belle Terre Parkway. The new store has actual retail space of about 12,000 square feet and, as Alfin noted in his remarks, could yield not just clothes, though that’s the majority of the floor space, but such finds as old Remington typewriters, “a timeless Mickey Mouse corded telephone,” and telescopes.
The new store, at 420 Palm Coast Parkway SW, across the street from AdventHealth’s new hospital, is anticipating business amounting to $35,000 a week, up from $30,000 a week from the previous location,
Jessica Cloud, vice president of retail, said today. The store is expected to average 280 to 300 customers a day, translating to purchases of about $14 to $16 per customer.
“Just a great response from the community, they have been very welcoming and very excited, waiting at the door every day,” Cloud said.
To say that Goodwill stores are a growing business is something of a double-edged statement: increasing economic stresses increases traffic at thrift stores, though Goodwill likes to underscore its numerous other services.
“Of course we wish we had fewer needy but we find a large portion of our society needs support and assistance. And that’s where we come into play,” says David Rey, chief executive officer of Goodwill Industries of North Florida. And today, there is “absolutely” a greater need for the sort of services Goodwill provides, he says.
“The wage gap is getting larger,” Rey said. “The idea of a living wage just two years ago to today is significantly different. I think in the state of Florida, it’s going to be significantly different in another two years. Inflation rates, about 9 percent this year and 7 percent last year, with rental rates jumping over 25 to 30percent. What we find is the average income is not enough to support a single person or even a single family.”
“Removing barriers to employment” is a Goodwill mantra.
The store, open seven days a week, employs 28 people (up from 15 at the previous store), about half full time, with a starting pay of $11 an hour.
Goodwill Industries of North Florida has 19 stores, soon to be 20, in 14 counties. Rey describes the company as a “federation.” There are about 155 Goodwill organizations, all non-profits, each with its own board of directors, each with its own group of stores covering a certain region. Goodwill Industries of North Florida has been around since 1940, Rey has been its CEO since 2011.
The company has a program called Academic Support Through the Employment Process, which helps individuals earn certain certifications. The company runs laundry, landscaping, custodial and temporary job services, and manages contracts for the military. The company’s website claims 9,000 job placements in 2019. That program had an impact in Flagler County before Covid, but the pandemic brought it almost to a halt. It is starting up again–which is in part why Flagler Education Foundation’s executive director, Theresa Rizzo, was there, with Alfin, a foundation board member–and Goodwill’s manager of the academic support program.
“I’ve had meetings with David,” Alfin said of Rey, “so I twisted his arm, he was very graceful about it, and he has committed to work with our flagship programs, to employ local students to teach some of the soft skills literally from the backroom of the store right up to the front. Kids that may choose a college path or perhaps not, but this is one of the only places in town where you can get the soft skills that are real world experience. So I’m very excited about that. I don’t know how many kids you can put through the program.”
Goodwill stores are also big on pointing out their environmental impact, with more than 3 billion pounds of “reusable or recyclable goods” kept from landfills by being donated to Goodwill stores companywide, including 15 million pounds of electronics in 2020. For the 19 stores of Goodwill Industries of North Florida, the diversion amounted to almost 11 million pounds in a typical year. “We were the original green company when Edgar J. Helms started the operation in 1902,” Rey said.
“This is not the Grace Pantry food line this morning, which I’ve worked on, and I understand that that need is there,” Alfin said, referring to the long weekend car lines that stretch out of Education Way off U.S. 1 to collect food packages from Grace Community Food Pantry. “This is yet another way to help navigate difficult economic conditions, but also to repurpose all of these goods.”
Rey had been a certified public accountant, working in homebuilding until the big housing bust. He lost his job in 2009, couldn’t find work for a year, looked for “a non-profit to sink my teeth in.”
“I wanted to give back to the community. I wanted something to really enjoy. And I found Goodwill, the mission to remove barriers to employment: It just resonated with me. The troubles that I had gone through, I’m really connected with it, I understand it. Growing up I certainly understand what it’s like not to earn a living wage. So our space in the community is to help provide opportunities and support for training and education, advanced certifications and allow people through their own hard work and our support to move up.”
In 2020, Forbes reported Goodwill nationwide was the 10th largest charity in the nation, with revenue of $6.4 billion and expenses of $6.17 billion.
According to its tax filings, Goodwill Industries of North Florida had total revenue of $33 million in 2020, the year Covid hit, down from $35.9 million in 2019. It paid $17.3 million in salaries in 2020, of which $1.15 million was in employee benefits. Its salaries included $277,477 to Rey, $186,918 to to Karen Phillips, its chief real estate officer, $210,000 to Robert Thayer, a retired CEO of the organization, $138,000 to Leah Lynch, its chief mission officer, and $123,000 to Lisa Smith, its human resources officer. The company had net assets of $19.7 million. The company owns the now-closed store at Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre. That property is for sale.