A retail mission with a message
BY JOHN WHITLOCK
Jason Nesler shines when he takes visitors around the inner workings and sales floor of Habitat for Humanity’s new ReStore on Winchester Road.
Habitat is the nonprofit, ecumenical Christian ministry that builds homes with people in need, celebrating its 30th anniversary in September.
Hamburg gained a new — but familiar — neighbor when a second ReStore opened on Winchester Road earlier this summer.
Longtime fans will recall Lexington’s first ReStore was nearby on Industry Road.
With pride and enthusiasm, the ReStore manager tells us about some of the unique treasures lining the shelves and packed on the floor as he provides a tour. Nesler, like the shoppers ReStore draws, never knows what will be brought in on a daily basis. Recent visitors would’ve found both an ornamental boat and a vintage golf ball washer for sale.
After graduating from EKU with a degree in biology, he joined the private sector, working with Phillip Gall’s and Wilson’s Nursery in Frankfort.
When he was ready for a new challenge, he applied with Habitat.
“Months later,” he says, “they contacted me and made this pitch, this idea. The idea was they wanted to start a second [ReStore] location here in the city. So I came on board about two months before we actually opened this location so a lot of that time was training, setting up the store, getting the construction done, drywall, painting, the floors.“
ReStore, the retail operation of Habitat for Humanity, accepts a wide array of donations — couches, dishes, chairs, tables, lighting, books, works of art, stoves, refrigerators, building supplies, doors, mantles, DVDs, pianos, beds, tchotchkes, bathtubs, floors, counters, fans, paint brushes, collectibles, hardware, and yes, of course, the kitchen sink. All these items, and many, many more, are sold to the public to help fund Habitat for Humanity’s mission of building affordable housing in the community.
“There are over 900 affiliates (ReStore locations) nationwide for Habitat For Humanity. Lexington is consistently in the top 20, often in the top 10 in terms of output, revenue, donations.”
If you are looking for a unique item for the home, ReStore is usually one of a treasure hunter’s first stops. Nesler says vintage stores use Restore as a resource and sometimes, the same shoppers will return twice a day just to see what has changed.
To tease its return to the neighborhood, Nesler says, “We had a one-day warehouse sale here at this location. It was a one day open just to promote what was coming. So the buzz was out there. From day one, we were working semi-independently of the Southland Drive location.”
Opening the new store on Winchester wasn’t undertaken on a whim.
“For years, (the new location) has been projected and budgeted for, planned toward,” Nesler said. “There are over 900 affiliates (ReStore locations) nationwide for Habitat For Humanity. Lexington is consistently in the top 20, often in the top 10 in terms of output, revenue, donations, all of those metrics.”
Despite an expansion of the Southland Drive location, the public’s support for ReStore through both donations and retail sales made the decision for another store obvious,
“I thought they were messing with me when I heard numbers like 200 donor Saturdays, but that is a real thing, ” Nesler said. “When you think about the logistics of that many donations, it’s kinda insane but they handle it. Lexington was kinda busting at the seams for a second store. The time was right and this property became available.”
This isn’t ReStore’s first time in our neighborhood — it started out on Industry Road — and the return to the area was by deliberate design.
Winchester Road is a busy commuter highway that stretches between downtown, Lexington’s industrial neighborhoods, the Hamburg area, and the I75 and I64 junctions.
“There was a lot of strategic planning that went into where exactly they were going to open another location,” Nesler said. “I think we … picked a great spot.”
The community has responded to the location with enthusiasm.
“The public’s perception and the response I think has really been positive,” Nesler said. “Our roots are here and this community is often the one we are serving which is building affordable homes and we are grounded in this part of the city. We are back to our roots. “
Although Nesler’s job is primarily operating a retail store, the mission of Habitat For Humanity is never far from his mind. He regularly attends Habitat For Humanity ‘build days’ dedications and other events that highlight the very real and positive work of the organization.
The idea that public good is coming from their efforts is a message that Nesler likes to share with the staff.
It isn’t just a job, it’s a mission with a message. He says, “Part of the appeal of working for a non-profit is knowing the good you are doing for the community that you serve. I think everyone here is tapped into the bigger meaning of why were are here and what we doing. It makes it feel like not just another retail job.”
It’s not traditional retail in many ways. Nesler said the concept of ‘turn,’ which relates to the turnover of inventory is completely different.
“Turn is often a factor of your buying strategies and reordering etc…,” Nesler said. “Here turn is daily. It’s not a matter of three, four times a year. Literally, here, your entire store could change week to week. We move that much product. Conceptually, that’s a lot different from traditional retailers.”
Because ReStore’s entire inventory comes from individual and corporate donations, it can present a challenge.
“You never know what your donor count is gonna be in any given week,” Nesler said. “There is a lot of improv and thinking on the fly and problem solving on the fly.”
Although ReStore is known as a haven for treasure hunters, it’s also a well known source for incredible bargains. Maximizing profits isn’t the only factor when the Restore staff decides on a price. Quantity, floor space and desirability are also factors in determining the sticker price.
It falls mostly on the shoulders of the warehouse manager, who in this instance has previous experience in pricing donated goods for resale, to determine most prices.
“We do use a lot of references. We do look at eBay and other online sellers if we have something unusual come in. The bottom line is we are trying to create the best possible prices for the folks in our community while gaining as much profit as possible because that goes right back into our mission of building affordable housing in the community.”
It’s with his pride and enthusiasm that Nesler talks about his store and its relationship to the community.
“One thing I am very proud of is the reception we have received in this neighborhood,” Nesler said. “We get a constant compliment that this is a friendly store. People feel very welcome to shop here and that is exactly what we wanted to accomplish.”
Lexington Habitat for Humanity will celebrate its 30th anniversary on September 8. Join friends, staff, donors, and volunteers at Martin Luther King Park from 2 pm to 3:30 pm for celebration, community and of course, cake! A brief presentation will take place at 2:30 p.m.
Are you remodeling or demolishing a home or business?
Lexington Habitat’s trained staff can carefully remove items such as your kitchen cabinets and countertops. Rather than go to the landfill, salvaged materials find a second home through Habitat ReStore. Proceeds from your donation help fund building and repairing homes for your neighbors in need.
Volunteering at the ReStore is a fun way to make a difference in your community without swinging a hammer or getting your boots muddy. Not only do ReStore volunteers help Habitat for Humanity build affordable homes in Lexington, but they also keep our community clean and green by diverting more than 6,000 pounds of reusable material out of the waste stream every day! New ReStore volunteers must schedule an orientation prior to their first shift.
This article also appears on page 10 of the September 2018 print edition of Hamburg Journal.
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