Habitat for Humanity ReStore plans to move from East Lawrence to south Iowa Street

photo by: Kim Callahan/Journal-World

Habitat for Humanity's ReStore at 708 Connecticut St. is pictured Thursday, July 21, 2022.

A longtime supplier of bargain building materials is planning to make the move to south Iowa Street. But no, this isn’t a sign that a new, big discount chain is entering the market.

Instead, it is Lawrence’s existing Habitat for Humanity ReStore. The nonprofit has announced a deal to move the store from its longtime East Lawrence home to a spot in a shopping center at 27th and Iowa streets.

The ReStore has been located at Seventh and Connecticut streets since 2009, but the organization hopes to move this November into space at 2108 W. 27th St. If you are having a hard time picturing the location, it is the shopping center on the northwest corner of 27th and Iowa streets. It will place the store — which sells all types of donated building materials — next to Paradise Carpet One Floor and Home, and the Sherwin-Williams paint store. The ReStore will be in the spot previously occupied by Factory Direct Appliance, which closed its Lawrence location months ago.

“The focus of the move is really to just make us more convenient for our customers and donors, give us some more visibility and more parking,” Erika Zimmerman, director of Lawrence Habitat for Humanity, told me.

If you aren’t familiar with the ReStore, you must be smart enough to hire someone to do all your home improvement projects. The ReStore has ended up being a go-to place for weekend warriors who are looking to buy home improvement supplies at a discounted rate. That could be everything from a sink to an electrical fitting. Contractors all over town donate leftover supplies to Habitat for Humanity, plus some retailers also donate items to the store.

“Maybe it is a product that is the wrong color or there is a little bit of a scratch on it,” Zimmerman said of the types of new products the store often receives.

The donation nature of the store means the inventory is changing all the time. However, the store consistently has a lot of furniture and appliances. The new location will allow the ReStore to more prominently display those items.

Zimmerman said Habitat for Humanity leaders are expecting the move to increase revenues for the store due to the greater visibility, better parking and simply because there is a strong demand for bargains as the cost of building materials has soared. (Step No. 1 in all my fixer-upper projects is to build a brace for my wallet to keep it open continuously.)

The higher cost of building materials has had a major impact on Habitat’s overall mission, which is to build affordable housing in the community. In fact, Zimmerman said there was a time earlier this year that Habitat was unsure whether it could stay in the business of building new homes.

“The prices just made it very difficult,” Zimmerman said.

The board considered shifting its focus to home repairs versus building brand new homes. Building material prices have moderated some, however, and the board ultimately decided it had to remain in the new home building business to adequately fulfill its mission.

But Habitat has had to cut back. At one point, the organization’s goal was to build about five new houses per year, using the Habitat model of volunteer labor to construct the homes. Now, the organization has a goal of about three new homes a year.

Increasing sales at the ReStore, though, will help with the overall mission. Zimmerman estimated that the ReStore currently accounts for about 20% of Habitat’s entire revenue in Lawrence.

“The ReStore really is vital to our mission,” Zimmerman said.

Habitat has signed a deal to make the move to 27th and Iowa, but the organization still has some work to do before the move can be made. Habitat is seeking to raise $80,000 to cover the cost of constructing office space in the building, plus to do painting and make other improvements at the site. Habitat has launched a capital campaign to fund the project. Donations can be made at www.one.bidpal.net/restorecampaign.

The pending move does create one set of questions, though. Back in March we reported that employees at The Salvation Army Thrift Store near 23rd and Ousdahl had been telling customers that it was planning to move to the 27th and Iowa street shopping center. That move hasn’t happened, and I never could get a Salvation Army official to make an official announcement. We’ll see if anything more comes of that now that this news has come out.

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