It’s been nearly a decade since Inca Computers on Newman Street closed. Since then, several attempts to lease the space to new tenants have fallen through.
Not this time, assures Goodwill of Metro Detroit, which is by April of next year.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, Dearborn resident and Goodwill Director of Public Relations Mark Lane–joined by Goodwill Director of Donated Goods Jeffrey Ukrainec and Randee Freedman of the Newman Building Company, which owns the space–announced their intentions to open the store in Dearborn.
And according to Ukrainec, things are moving along smoothly.
Beating the Thrift Store Image
After closing down their Detroit retail division in 2000, Goodwill went through a period of retooling, during which they worked to revamp their image and analyze retail markets that were working–such as Portland, Ore., which makes around $100 million per year from its retail division.
“In order to have a mission, you have to have money,” Ukrainec said.
And in a state like Michigan, Goodwill’s mission is a hard one to argue with: getting people jobs.
Goodwill Detroit hired an interior designer to create the look and feel of their first store, which . Keeping away from all the traditions of second-hand shops, the store has hardwood and carpeted flooring, contemporary music, showcased outfits–all the makings of a department store–except the prices, and the fact that their profits go back into the organization.
“It’s taken time to get people accustomed to our new image,” Ukrainec said of the store. “We worked on this for a year and a half.”
Heading up to the flagship store’s one-year anniversary, he added, “We’ve worked out the kinks and we’re ready to expand.”
And first on the list is Dearborn.
Focus on Gaining Community Support
One of the biggest challenges facing Goodwill is overcoming the “thrift store” image. So before the lease is even signed, they’ve begun spreading the word and inviting everyone from residents to community leaders to make the trip to Canton to get a glimpse at what Dearborn’s Goodwill store would look like.
City Councilman Robert Abraham was among those visitors, and said he’s on board.
“I see no valid reasons not to support their initiative,” he said. “Why would any council people come to the conclusion that this isn’t the type of store we want in our community?”
The Newman Company was not immediately available for comment on the pending deal, however Lane said owner Norm Newman has also visited the Canton store and “he’s very fired up."
Lane said he hopes the rest of the community will see the store–or at least the photos–and agree.
“We’ll hold meetings at Biggby where people can come up and talk with us about it,” he said.
Next Step: Petition
But much of their marketing will be door-to-door in the neighborhood that borders Goodwill’s planned location.
Because Goodwill–no matter their image–is a secondhand shop, they must comply with city mandates that requires a petition signed by 51 percent of residents within 700 feet of the store in order to receive city approval.
Lane said they’re in the process of getting a list of homes now, and will begin gathering signatures soon.
Abraham acknowledged that while residents may be weary of the repercussions of a “secondhand” store opening in their neighborhood, their fears are likely unfounded.
“When people say, ‘I’m concerned about the type of people it will attract,’ the type of people you’re concerned about it attracting–whatever that means–they’re already here,” Abraham said. “This store is not going to be this monumental attraction to our downtown district that’s going to change everything overnight.”
Ukrainec added that though some Canton residents expressed the same fears, the city as a whole was “receptive from day one.”
“We want to fit with the community,” he added.
Ukrainec and the Newman team are set to meet with Mayor Jack O’Reilly next week to discuss the plans and hope to have their proposal before the City Planning Commission by their Jan. 9 meeting.